- No one was injured in the encounter between US and Iran: Source
- Unidentified Iranian vessel got within 150 yards of USS Thunderbolt
- At the time, US, coalition ships were doing training exercise: Pentagon
The unidentified Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel got within 150 yards of the USS Thunderbolt and risked a collision, U.S. officials said, before the American patrol boat fired multiple warning shots and quickly ended the encounter.
One Pentagon official who spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity described it as an isolated incident and confirmed that no one was hurt.
U.S. officials have not specified where the incident occurred, saying only that U.S. and coalition ships were participating in a daytime training exercise when the Iranians conducted an "unsafe and unprofessional interaction" by failing to observe internationally recognized maritime customs.
It's also unclear how many Americans were aboard the Thunderbolt. Based in Norfolk, Virginia, it can carry a crew of 27 and is used primarily for patrolling coastlines and to provide surveillance for interdiction operations.
U.S. officials have not yet disclosed what type of weapons the crew fired. The ship is heavily armed, carrying chain guns, automatic grenade launchers and .50.-caliber machine guns.
At least three other American vessels were nearby at the time.
Video released by U.S. Central Command shows the Iranian vessel approaching the Thunderbolt's starboard side, approaching extremely close to the ship's bow.
"The Iranian vessel did not respond to repeated attempts to establish radio communications as it approached," said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesman. "Thunderbolt then fired warning flares and sounded the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts on the ship's whistle, but the Iranian vessel continued inbound. As the Iranian vessel proceeded toward the U.S. ship, Thunderbolt again sounded five short blasts before firing warning shots in front of the Iranian vessel."
Iranian military officials characterized the incident as a U.S. provocation and took credit for having "neutralized" the threat.
In a report published last winter, the Office of Naval Intelligence indicated that vessels operated by the Revolutionary Guard Corps routinely monitor U.S. and allied warships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a busy waterway that links to the Gulf of Oman. The majority of these encounters are "safe and routine," it said, but "unprofessional or aggressive" run-ins are becoming more frequent.
"Such operations increase the likelihood for a mishap at sea, potentially leading to strategic tension and insecurity in the region," the report said.
The Pentagon documented 35 such interactions with the Iranians last year, up from to 23 in 2015, according to the Associated Press. This year, it has acknowledged at least five.
Last month, Iranian forces harassed a formation of three American ships - the amphibious assault ship Bataan, the guided-missile destroyer Cole and the dry cargo ship Washington Chambers - shining floodlights on them from a distance of 800 yards and pointing a laser at an airborne U.S. helicopter.
Twice in March, the USNS Invincible, which is outfitted with sonar and radar equipment, had close encounters. In one incident, an Iranian frigate moved within 150 yards. In the other, Revolutionary Guard fast boats cut in front of the U.S. ship, forcing it to rapidly change course to avoid a collision.
Such adversarial behavior between the two nations' navies belies what has become a more complicated dynamic on the ground inside Iraq and Syria.
Speaking at a security forum last week in Colorado, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, described how American troops now come "coffee-breath close" to Iranian-backed forces also battling the Islamic State, according to CNN.
The general also noted that during one of his recent trips to Iraq, his plane was parked next to one belonging to Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's infamous Quds Force.
"We bump into them everywhere," he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)