Eleven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels repeatedly conducted “dangerous and harassing” approaches to the U.S. naval vessels in the North Arabian Gulf on April 15, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
The U.S. vessels – identified as USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) – were conducting joint integration operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the international waters when the incident occurred.
BREAKING: 11 Iranian #IRGCN vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous & harassing approaches against U.S. naval ships operating in international waters of North Arabian Gulf. U.S. crews took actions deemed appropriate to avoid collision.
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) April 15, 2020
According to the U.S. Navy. the IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui’s bow.
The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN.
After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened the distance between them, according to the statement.
“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) “rules of the road” or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area”, the U.S. Navy statement said.
USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) is the first purposely-built expeditionary mobile base ship of the U.S. Navy while USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) is a Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. USS Firebolt (PC-10) and USS Sirocco (PC-6) are Navy’s Cyclone-class patrol ships. USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) are Island-class patrol boats operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the North Arabian Gulf since late March.
“U.S. naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense”, the Navy statement noted.