An Iranian vessel came within 800 yards of a U.S. Navy ship and shined a laser at a U.S. helicopter while passing through international waters of the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, according to Navy statement issued Wednesday evening.
Spokesman for the Navy's 5th Fleet, Cmdr. Bill Urban, described the encounter as an "unsafe and unprofessional interaction."
"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. 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," Urban said in a statement.
Navy officials deemed the encounter dangerous because Iran shined a laser at a U.S. helicopter.
"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 added.
The U.S. military has condemned Iran multiple times over the years, including at least 35 "unprofessional" interactions in 2016, more than double the previous year, according to Fox News. There have been incidents this year too, including in January when the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast attack boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Another "unprofessional but also provocative" maneuver by the Iranians happened in April, the U.S. said according to CNN.