Pentagon: Iran Navy flew helicopter in ‘unsafe’ proximity to USS Essex

Last week, an Iranian Navy helicopter flew within 23 meters of a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship while it was traveling in the Gulf of Oman, according to the Pentagon.

VOA News reported that Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday that the helicopter “operated in an unsafe and unprofessional manner.” The helicopter was said to have been flying as low as 3 meters from the water, and circled the USS Essex three times.

The press secretary continued, saying, “when you have another armed force, in this case the Iranian Navy, that flies like this, you definitely run the risk of some sort of escalation and a miscalculation.” This incident comes a week after several Iranian drones unsafely interacted with the U.S. Navy ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

Additionally, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, prior to this incident, claimed they stopped the United States as they tried to detain a tanker carrying the Islamic Republic’s oil in the Sea of Oman. The Pentagon has stated that this claim is untrue, and also that Iran’s forces are the ones who illegally seized and boarded a merchant vessel in the Sea of Oman in late October.

Kirby also said in his statement, “there are rules of engagement, that I’m not going to speak to from the podium that our commanders have at their disposal to deal with potential threats. And when you have another armed force, in this case the Iranian Navy, that flies like this, you definitely run the risk of some sort of escalation and a miscalculation or on either side here, and that’s not helpful. This one ended peacefully but it doesn’t mean it was safe and professional” (USNI News).

The press secretary continued, “Without going into specifics, the crew of the Essex took the appropriate force protection measures they felt that they needed to, and they acted in accordance with international law.”

According to CBS News, the U.S. Navy has reported many instances, outside of the most recent ones, that it characterized as unsafe and unprofessional encounters with Iran naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

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