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Iranian Patrol Boat Harasses U.S. Navy Ships with Spotlight

Iranian patrol boat harasses US Navy ships
USS Lewis B. Puller and another guided-missile destroyer (USS Paul Hamilton) in the Arabian Gulf in 2020 (US Navy photo)

Published Dec 6, 2022 6:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy is reporting a new incident with a boat from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy which the U.S. is calling “unsafe and unprofessional,” continuing a long string of similar activities harassing U.S. vessels in the region. The incident comes just days after one of the two U.S. vessels in today’s altercation confiscated 50 tons of ammunition in the region. The U.S. has been increasing its activities to stop smuggling.

“The Iranian vessel attempted to blind the bridge by shining a spotlight and crossed within 150 yards of the U.S. ships – dangerously close, particularly at night,” U.S. CENTCOM reported in a statement recounting the interaction. 

The expeditionary sea base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller and guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans were reportedly conducting a routine transit in international waters when the patrol boat approached them on the evening of December 5. The U.S. says the altercation took place while the U.S. Navy ships were transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

“This dangerous action in international waters is indicative of Iran’s destabilizing activity across the Middle East,” said Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesman.

The U.S. ships “safely de-escalated the situation through the employment of audible warnings and non-lethal lasers,” according to the details provided by CENTCOM. They report that the Iranian patrol boat withdrew and the U.S. Navy ships continued their transit without further incident.

For the USS Lewis B. Puller, it was not the first time she was harassed by Iranian forces. In April 2020, the vessel along with USS Paul Hamilton, USS Firebolt, USS Sirocco, USCGC Wrangell, and USCGC Maui was operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf when the Navy reported that Iranian speedboats approached and harassed the ships for nearly an hour before withdrawing. 

Last weekend, the Navy also reported that the forces operating from the Puller carried out an interdiction, capturing ammunition rounds, fuses, and propellants for rockets in the Gulf of Oman along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen. It was the U.S. 5th Fleet's second weapons seizure in a month in the region.

Iranian patrol boats have been known to frequently approach or harass U.S. vessels in the region. They typically sail close to the U.S. ships, cutting in front of them or circling the ships. On at least one occasion, the Iranians were even observed videotaping the U.S. vessels.