A U.S. Marine helicopter was targeted with a laser by an Iranian missile boat in the Persian Gulf the week, triggering an automatic response from the aircraft, which fired flares back at the ship.
The incident took place Tuesday, when a group of two Navy warships and a cargo ship were moving out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, Fox News reported Thursday. During the encounter, the Iranian warship came within 800 yards of the American ships, a situation that Cmdr. Bill Urban called “unsafe and unprofessional.”
“The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) were transiting the strait when the Iranian vessel paralleled the U.S. formation, shining a spotlight on Cole,” Urban wrote in a statement, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Shortly thereafter, the Iranian vessel trained a laser on a CH-53E helicopter that accompanied the formation. The Iranian vessel then proceeded to turn its spotlight on Bataan, scanning the ship from bow to stern and stern to bow before heading outbound from the formation.”
He noted that “(i)lluminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles.”
The military cataloged a total of 35 “unprofessional” interactions by Iranian forces in 2016 alone, although few seemed to rise to this level of seriousness. However, given our recent history with the country — in particular, the January 2016 capture of American sailors when their boat broke down — it’s seriously worrying. There weren’t actual bullets used, but there’s no question that the laser targeting and automatic flares were the equivalent of “warning shots” between two rival militaries.