Six US Navy warships conducting drills with US Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters off Iran Wednesday were repeatedly harassed by 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy vessels, the US Navy’s 5th Fleet reported.

The Iranian ships repeatedly crossed in front and behind the US vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of one ship, the Puller, with a 50-yard closest point of approach and within 10 yards of another ship, the Maui’s, bow, a 5th Fleet statement said.

The US crews responded to the infractions by issuing multiple warnings via radio – including five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN, the statement said.

After approximately an hour, the Iranian vessels finally responded to the radio queries, before maneuvering away from the US ships and increasing the distance between them, the 5th Fleet reported.

Besides the Puller and Maui, the Navy reported the following ships were involved in the exercises: USS Paul Hamilton, USS Firebolt, USS Sirocco and USCGC Wrangell.

Three Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessel next to expeditionary mobile sea base USS Lewis B. Puller in a still image from video taken in the Gulf.
Three IRGCN vessels next to expeditionary mobile sea base USS Lewis B. Puller in a still image from video taken in the Gulf.Reuters

The Navy statement said the Iranian’s dangerous and provocative actions “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision” and were in violation of international maritime “rules of the road” as well as not in accordance with international law to act safely with other vessels in the area.

The incident comes one day after Iranian gunmen stormed a Hong Kong-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz before quickly leaving when they learned the vessel was from China.

Two IRGCN vessels next to the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton.
Two IRGCN vessels next to the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton.Reuters

The US Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the North Arabian Gulf since late March.