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U.S. Navy Fires Warning Shots at Iranian Military Vessel in Persian Gulf

The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship, fired warning shots at an Iranian military vessel that approached at high speed Tuesday.
Image: US Military Interactions with Iran in the Gulf
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessel conducted an unsafe and unprofessional interaction with a U.S. Navy ship during a coalition exercise in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf, July 25, 2017.U.S. Navy

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots at an Iranian military vessel that approached it at high speed Tuesday, two U.S. defense officials said.

The incident happened in the Northern Persian Gulf and marks the latest confrontation between Iranian and American military ships in the area.

Two U.S. defense officials told NBC News that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessel approached the USS Thunderbolt and three other U.S. ships that were conducting routine exercises.

They said the skiff failed to react to bridge-to-bridge communications nor did it respond to five short blasts, a sound warning for possible danger, coming as close as 150 yards.

The Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship based in Bahrain as part of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, fired several warning shots as a result.

Officials said the Iranian vessel did have guns on board but they were not manned and initially remained covered.

Although it did uncover its guns after the warning shots were fired, the weapons remained unmanned and by this point the ship had stopped, the officials said.

Image: US patrol boat fires warning shots near Iranian naval ship
The coastal patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) in the Persian Gulf on January 7, 2015. U.S. Department of Defense / via EPA

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement released via state news agency Fars that the boat was "on routine patrol in the Persian gulf when the America vessel came along side it and fired warning shots, the Iranian boat carried on course with its patrol and that the action of the Americans was extremely unprofessional."

Related: U.S. Sailors Held By Iran Military

The U.S. Navy and its Iranian counterparts frequently encounter each other in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. Navy recorded 35 instances of what it describes as "unsafe and/or unprofessional" interactions with Iranians forces in 2016, compared to 23 in 2015, the Associated Press reports.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard captured 10 U.S. sailors last year in the Persian Gulf and held them overnight before releasing them.

A subsequent Navy investigation found the captured U.S. sailors had inappropriately turned over sensitive information. At the time, a U.S. military official also described the incident as "a calamity of errors."

AP reported that Iranian officials and state run media in the country did not immediately acknowledge Tuesday's incident.

Courtney Kube reported from Washington, Eoghan Macguire and Ali Arouzi reported from London.