Navy having hundreds of close encounters each year with Iranian patrol boats, warships

Navy having hundreds of close encounters each year with Iranian patrol boats, warships
Iranian fast attack boat with multiple rocket launcher mounted above the cabin. (Image via Navy Matters blog)

[Ed. – The level cited in this report is definitely up from what it used to be.  Keep in mind that our ships have an obligation in an international strait, like the Strait of Hormuz, to refrain from taking retaliatory action that could involve breaching an expeditious-transit profile.  As annoying as it is, the Navy is doing the right thing to maintain calm and not overreact.  While Obama is in the White House, nothing good can come of upsetting the status quo — which is just what Iran wants to get us to do.]

The series of encounters on Monday took place as the [USS] New Orleans sailed in international waters through the strait. Gen. Votel [CENTCOM], on a swing through the Middle East this week, voiced concern about how quickly such an encounter could turn lethal for the ship, which was carrying about 700 Marines.

In the case of Monday’s incident, U.S. officials didn’t consider the Iranian ships to be technically harassing the American warship, but said they came unacceptably close to doing so. Iran officials couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

The encounters might have been considered more dramatic if they weren’t so common. American Navy ships reported about 300 incidents with Iranian vessels during 2015, according to data provided by the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Most of those “interactions,” as the Navy calls them, are considered safe or don’t rise to the level of harassment, according to Navy officials.

Navy officials essentially grade Iranian naval behavior on a curve. They said that the way the Iranians behave typically, even when they don’t actually harass American warships, is still not the way most professional navies behave at sea. …

“It’s very common for them to come up to within 300, 500 yards of us, and then they’ll turn, or parallel us and stop,” said Lt. Forrest Griggs, the New Orleans’s operations officer. “We try not to become accustomed to that because we don’t want to become complacent.”

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