A US Navy ship fired warning shots at Iranian boats on Sunday, January 8, 2016 near the Strait of Hormuz, two US Defense officials said Monday, citing initial reports.
Five or six Iranian patrol crafts approached the USS Mahan near the strait at high rates of speed, the officials said.
The Mahan, a destroyer, fired warning shots and used radio calls, flares, bells and whistles to signal the ships to stay away. There was no response to the radio calls.
A US helicopter overhead dropped smoke grenades.
The USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship, also was nearby. The US vessels were headed through the strait toward the Persian Gulf.
The Strait of Hormuz, where the incident took place, is situated between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
The incident is the latest tense encounter between the two countries in and over waters near Iran in recent months. These brushes have included Iranian rocket launches, drones flying over US vessels and the capture of US sailors.
They’ve come against the backdrop of renewed US diplomatic contacts with Iran, which has triggered a political backlash among Iranian hardliners, including Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In November, a US Navy Seahawk helicopter had what the Navy is calling an “unsafe and unprofessional encounter” with an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat near the Strait of Hormuz.
The helicopter was flying overhead when the Iranians trained a weapon on it, according to a defense official.
The Iranians did not fire. The event took place as the helicopter was escorting the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on its way out of the Persian Gulf.
In September, Iran threatened to shoot down two US Navy aircraft as they were flying just inside the strait, a US defense official said. The EP-3 and P-8 planes were in international airspace but “near Iranian airspace.”
Earlier in September, seven Iranian fast-attack boats were involved in an unsafe encounter with the USS Firebolt, with one Iranian craft coming to a stop in front of the American ship, a US defense official said.
In August, US Navy patrol craft fired three warning shots at an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boat after US officials said it had harassed that patrol craft.
Another US patrol craft and a Kuwaiti Navy ship were also harassed in the incident, which took place in the northern end of the Persian Gulf.