On 10 May, six US Navy ships escorting the guided missile submarine USS Georgia, as it travelled through the strait of Hormuz, ended up in an incident involving thirteen “fast boats” of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, the boats approached the American vessels “precariously” and did not respond to warnings calling for them to increase their distance from the US ships.
Reportedly, they got as close as 150 yards away from the US ships. Finally, warning shots were fired and achieved the desired result.
A US Department of Defense statement condemned the incident:
“This group of fast attack boats approached the U.S. formation at high speed, closing in as close as 150 yards. After following all the appropriate and established procedures involving ships: horn blast, bridge-to-bridge radio transmissions and other ways of communicating, the Coast Guard Cutter Maui … fired approximately 30 warning shots from a 50. caliber machine gun. After the second round of warning shots, the 13 fast-attack craft from the IRGCN broke contact.”
Harassment by Iranian naval forces is not uncommon, with a similar incident occurring on 26 April. Back then, warning shots were also fired but the Iranian vessels counted just 3 rather than 13. Earlier in the month, 7 Iranian ships harassed 2 US Coast Guard vessels but no warning shots were fired. Therefore, Kirby found it important to stress the right of American vessels to defend themselves.
“Our commanding officers and crew of our ships, they have the right of self-defense and they know how to use that right. They have the means at their disposal to defend their ships and their crews and they also, as I think we’ve seen now in this second incident, are very stringent about following the proper procedures for providing warnings: verbally first, and then if need be, through the use of warning shots to try to change or mitigate the Iranian behavior.”
The recent incident occurred just after the Navy announced that the USS Monterey (CG-61) which was operating in the same general region seized a large illegal arms transport.