An Iranian missile boat pointed a laser at a U.S. Marine helicopter while two Navy warships and a cargo ship were transiting out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, a senior American defense official said, according to Fox News.
The laser triggered a response and the U.S. helicopter automatically fired off flares toward the offending vessel.
The Iranian vessel came within 800 yards of the U.S. warships.
Cdr. Bill Urban in a statement called the interaction “unsafe and unprofessional.”
“Illuminating 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,” Urban was quoted as having said.
The incident is the latest in a series of provocations from Iran. In March, the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that had approached a U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait.
Earlier that month, Iranian military vessels had a close encounter with a U.S. surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz. The incident was described by American officials as an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” maneuver by the Iranians.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in turn accused the United States of provoking tensions which led to the incident.
In January, a U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots at Iranian boats near the Strait of Hormuz, after five Iranian vessels approached the USS Mahan and two other American ships that were entering the strait.
Tuesday incident, noted Fox News, came just days after a U.S. F-15 shot down an Iranian drone in southern Syria after it fired on U.S.-backed forces at a training camp near Al Tanf near the border with Jordan.