A U.S. coastal patrol ship in international waters was forced to change course over the weekend after an Iranian fast attack boat came within 100 yards, two U.S. Defense Department officials told Reuters on Tuesday under the condition of anonymity.
The officials said the Iranian vessel sailed directly in front of the USS Firebolt, which forced the 174-foot ship to turn away. The interaction was “unsafe and unprofessional due to lack of communications and the close-range harassing maneuvering,” one of the officials said. He added that uncovered and manned weapons were plainly visible on the Iranian boat.
The encounter began when seven Iranian fast attack boats “harassed” the USS Firebolt, according to Navy Captain and pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis. Three of the boats “maneuvered close to the ship, shadowing her course from a range of about 500 yards,” Davis said. Two of the boats left the area, but one came to a stop directly in front of the Firebolt. “This caused the Firebolt to have to maneuver to avoid collision,” Davis said. “They came within about 100 yards of each other during the interaction. The Firebolt attempted multiple radio communications with the Iranians.”
According to officials, this is one of 31 similar incidents with Iranian ships this year, almost double the number from the same period last year. “We don’t see this type of unsafe and unprofessional activity from any other nation,” one official said.
In August, four Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels made “harassing” moves toward an American missile destroyer when they carried out a “high speed intercept” near the Strait of Hormuz. This action prompted a U.S. coastal patrol ship — the USS Squall — to fire three warning shots.