The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) boats involved were the USCGC Wrangell (WPB-1332) and USCGC Monomoy (WPB-1326), two Island class patrol cutters. They were conducting routine maritime security patrols in the southern Persian Gulf, according to the U.S. Navy, which said that these patrols are routinely carried out in international waters.
The Harth 55 crossed the bows of both Wrangell and Monomoy at a 70-yard closest point of approach (CPA), according to a U.S. Navy statement. The Iranian boat then “closed aggressively” on Wrangell’s bow, and the cutter maneuvered out of its path while sounding five short warning blasts from the ship’s horn.
As well as sounding the horn, the crews on the two USCG ships also issued “multiple warnings” to the Iranians over open radio channels. The U.S. Navy says the IRGCN vessel responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, but it’s unclear how these conversations went. Regardless, according to the U.S. Navy account, the Harth 55 continued its “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers before eventually moving away from the cutters. The entire incident lasted for roughly three hours.
“U.S. naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense,” the U.S. Navy release concluded.
The appearance of the Shahid Nazeri, which was officially commissioned in 2016, is notable in itself, given how little time the vessel seems to spend at sea. The catamaran did make participate, at least one some level, in a Russian-Iranian naval exercise earlier this year. The ship’s actual capabilities have long seemed very limited, though the IRGC has released pictures in the past showing an AB-206 helicopter armed with an anti-ship missile onboard.
This is, of course, hardly the first time that USCG vessels, as well as other American warships, have been involved in a maritime altercation with Iranian forces. Almost a year ago, on April 15, 2020, the USCGC Wrangel, together with another Island class patrol cutter, USCGC Maui, was involved in another incident in the same waters.
On that occasion, the cutters, together with the expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller, the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Paul Hamilton, and the Cyclone class patrol craft USS Firebolt and USS Sirocco were harassed by around 11 Iranian speedboat-type craft. You can read more about that incident here.
The incident this April followed a very similar pattern to last year’s encounter. On both occasions, IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds. However, last year’s incident saw the Iranian boats coming as close as 10 yards of at least one of the U.S. vessels, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Despite the use of radio communications, blasts from the ships’ horns, and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, there was no response from the IRGCN on that occasion.
An earlier video showing the April 15, 2020 incident in the Persian Gulf: