A fleet of American and British warships have been “forced” to change their course after being encountered by a group of Iranian vessels near the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, according to a US navy official.
Speaking to the Associated Press on Monday, the unnamed US official said the speedboats, allegedly belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), came within 550 meters of USNS Invincible and its three-ship entourage from the UK Royal Navy in the Strait of Hormuz.
Describing the incident, which apparently happened on Saturday, as “unprofessional and dangerous,” the official said the American and British vessels had changed their course after failing to communicate with the other vessels over radio.
Equipped with highly sophisticated radars and other advanced systems, USNS Invincible is a tracking ship that monitors missile launches and sends important data back to the command center. It can measure such data as a missile’s accuracy.
In September last year, the Pentagon’s spokesman Captain Jeff Davis reported a similar encounter, where the USS Firebolt patrol boat changed its course after a speedboat operated by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps came within 91 meters of it.
Back then, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan vowed that Tehran would not let any intrusion go unanswered.
Iran issued another serious warning in early February, when British and American naval vessels held maritime military exercises in the Persian Gulf with France and Australia to simulate targeting Iranian combat jets, ships and coastal missile launch facilities.
Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said Tehran “does not care about who’s doing what” as long as they do not violate the country’s “red line,” meaning its territorial waters.
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In January last year, the IRGC Navy arrested the crews of two US patrol boats that had trespassed into Iranian waters. Tehran released the servicemen after Washington apologized for the incursion and vowed to prevent such incidents in future.