On Saturday, as the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group passed through the Strait of Hormuz, an Iranian patrol boat trained a crew-served weapon on a U.S. Navy helicopter.
The Iranians did not open fire, but the Pentagon described it as the latest of over two dozen “unsafe and unprofessional” encounters with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the past year.
“During a routine daylight transit of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group through the strait linking the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, two Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast patrol boats tailed the CSG,” two defense officials told USNI News.
“The CSG launched an MH-60R Seahawk to investigate the vicinity and monitor the boats during the transit of the carrier and its escorts,” the report continues. “At about a half mile from the helicopter, the crew of one of the two boats trained their weapon on the helicopter twice before the helicopter returned to USS Eisenhower (CVN-69). The patrol boats did not come close to the carrier itself, the officials said.”
The crew of the helicopter reportedly did not feel they were in imminent danger of being attacked.
As USNI News observes, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy is “separate from the regular Iranian military” and reports to “the sectarian wing of Iran’s government,” so its actions are difficult to pass off as mistakes made by rogue sailors.
“If they continue to test us, we are going to respond, and we are going to protect ourselves and our partners,” said General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, at a Pentagon conference after the worst of the IRGCN’s provocations in August.
CNN recalls Votel saying these provocations are caused by an Iranian regime that desires to “continue to do these types of things that stoke instability or attempt to stoke instability in the region.”
CNN also reported that on Saturday, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces talked about establishing naval bases in both Syria and Yemen.
Reuters notes this marks Iran’s first provocation since Donald Trump won the presidential election and recalls Trump declaring during his campaign that any Iranian vessel which harassed the U.S. Navy would be “shot out of the water.”
More specifically, Trump said: “When they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”