Navy - Iranian Boats Provoke Incident in Strait of Hormuz

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WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Three U.S. Navy vessels took evasive actions after five Iranian boats buzzed the ships transiting the Strait of Hormuz Jan. 6, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Jan. 7.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Whitman called the Iranian provocation "a serious incident." The fast Iranian boats approached at "distances and speed that showed reckless, dangerous and potentially hostile intent," he said.

The incident lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, he said. The Navy ships were going into the Persian Gulf when the Iranian boats confronted them.

"Small, Iranian fast boats made some aggressive maneuvers against our vessels and indicated some hostile intent," Whitman said. "This required our vessels to issue warnings and conduct some evasive maneuvers. The U.S. Navy vessels were prepared to take appropriate actions, but there was no engagement of the vessels."

He said the speed of the Iranian boats and their distance from the U.S. Navy vessels demonstrated potentially hostile intent. Bridge-to-bridge radio communications between the Iranian vessels and the U.S. Navy ships reinforced this impression, he said.

The U.S. ships were operating in international waters within the Strait of Hormuz and followed all appropriate protocols, Whitman said. The U.S. Navy ships are USS Port Royal (CG 73), USS Hopper (DDG 70) and USS Ingraham (FFG 61).

U.S. warships will take all the precautions needed to safely transit the open waters of the strait, the Pentagon spokesman said.

"This is reckless and dangerous behavior on the part of the Iranian vessels, and it should cease immediately," Whitman added.

Typically, small boats such as these are under command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, U.S. Navy officials said.

All U.S. warships transiting the open seas are prepared to take action should their ship or crews be threatened, Whitman noted. The U.S. ships "did take appropriate action in terms of maneuvering and communicating, and were prepared to take further action if necessary," he said.

The Defense Department will work with White House and State Department officials to come up with the appropriate way to address the incident with the Iranian government, Whitman said.

Iranian boats took 15 British sailors engaged in United Nations-sanctioned operations in the northern Persian Gulf on March 23.