Iranian Attack Boats Approach Amphib Carrying Top U.S. General
On Friday, two Iranian attack boats made a close approach to the amphib USS Essex while the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, was on board. One of the vessels reportedly crossed the vessel's bow at a distance of 300 yards.
Gen. Votel told reporters who witnessed the encounter that the maneuvers were "normal, safe and professional interaction out here in international waters." He noted that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) craft routinely shadow American vessels in the area to watch and assess their capabilities.
There are no indications that the IRGC patrol boats were aware of Gen. Votel's presence aboard the Essex.
IRGC small craft used to make frequent, "unprofessional" close approaches with U.S. Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, sometimes moving to within as little as 100 yards and maneuvering at high speed. In some instances, American commanders found it necessary to fire warning shots. Over the course of the past year, however, the number of potentially-dangerous interactions has fallen dramatically, the service says.
Gen. Votel was aboard a Navy vessel during a previous encounter with Iranian attack boats in 2016, when five armed IRGC craft approached the destroyer USS New Orleans during a southbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz. The boats shadowed the New Orleans at a distance of about 500 yards, then departed.