An Iranian patrol boat pointed a laser at a U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter flying over the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, a senior American official said.
The laser triggered a response and the helicopter automatically fired off flares toward the offending vessel.
In addition to the Marine helicopter, Iranians also pointed the laser at guided-missile destroyer, USS Cole (DDG-67) and amphibious assault ship, USS Bataan (LHD-5) operating in the strait. The Iranian vessel came within 800 yards of USS Bataan scanning it from bow to stern with the laser.
U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet spokesman, Cdr. Bill Urban in a statement called the interaction “unsafe and unprofessional. “Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles,” Urban said.
The incident is the latest in a series of provocations from Iran. According to the Pentagon, there had been 35 similar incidents of unsafe or unprofessional behavior by Iranian vessels in 2016.
The incident came just days after a U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jet shot down an Iranian drone in southern Syria after it fired on U.S.-backed forces at a training camp near Al Tanf near the border with Jordan.