US Navy Destroyer Fires 'Burst' of Warning Shots at Iranian Small Craft

The Iranian craft were 890 yards away from the U.S. ship when it fired.

ByABC News
January 9, 2017, 1:29 PM

— -- A US Navy destroyer fired a "burst" of warning shots at four Iranian small craft that were approaching at a high rate of speed, according to a U.S. defense official.

The destroyer, the USS Mahan, and other U.S. ships were traveling in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, heading into the Persian Gulf, when the incident occurred Sunday.

The Iranian craft were 890 yards away from the Mahan when the destroyer fired three rounds of warning shots, after which the Iranian craft backed away from the U.S. ship, the official said. Prior to the shots, the crew of the Mahan made repeated attempts to warn the Iranian craft, including by firing flares from the ship's deck and dropping smoke flares from a helicopter.

The defense official said the Iranian craft had contacted the Mahan via radio to ask for its hull number prior to the firing of the shots, then ceased voice communications entirely. However, another defense official told ABC News that after the Iranian craft backed away, they established radio communications with the Mahan to ask its course and speed.

"Naval Forces Central Command assesses this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional due to the IRGCN's [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy] vessels high-speed approach on Mahan with weapons manned and disregard for repeated warnings via radio, audible siren, and ship's whistle, which only arrested following warning shots being fired," said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, in a statement.

No one was injured in the incident.

While close encounters in the Persian Gulf between U.S. Navy ships and Iranian small craft are common, it’s rare that an American ship fires warning shots.

The only recent occurrence was in late August in the Persian Gulf when the USS Squall fired warning shots into the waters ahead of an speeding Iranian boat to warn the small craft that it had come as close as 200 yards to a U.S. Navy ship.

The Pentagon also called that encounter "unsafe and unprofessional."

During a September campaign stop in Florida, Donald Trump addressed Iran's naval aggression toward the U.S., saying an Iranian craft "will be shot out of the water."

“With Iran, 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, OK? Believe me," Trump told the crowd.

In the same speech, Trump promised to expand the U.S. Navy's fleet to 350 ships and to procure “modern destroyers.”

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