US Army soldiers from the 1-108th Assault Helicopter Battalion, Kansas Army National Guard, conduct day and night deck landing qualifications with UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters on board the US Navy's expeditionary sea base Lewis B. Puller in the Persian Gulf on March 29, 2019. US Central Command claims an Iranian gunboat tried to blind Lewis B. Puller's bridge with a spotlight on Dec. 5, 2022, in the Strait of Hormuz. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Emily Finn.
US Central Command accuses an Iranian patrol boat of shining a spotlight on the bridge of the expeditionary sea base platform Lewis B. Puller during a potentially dangerous transit through the Strait of Hormuz.
CENTCOM officials told Coffee or Die Magazine the Iranian stunt began roughly at 11:30 p.m. local time on Monday, Dec. 5, while ESB-3 was in international waters near the guided-missile destroyer The Sullivans.
“This dangerous action in international waters is indicative of Iran’s destabilizing activity across the Middle East,” said CENTCOM spokesperson Col. Joe Buccino.
State-run news agencies in Iran have yet to respond to the allegations.
The expeditionary sea base platform Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), left, and guided-missile destroyer Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) patrol the Persian Gulf on March 25, 2020. US Army photo by Spc. Duong Le.
CENTCOM officials said the beam crossed within roughly 150 meters of the warship’s bridge, sparking a round of audible warnings to the Iranian sailors and then bolts from a nonlethal laser blasted at their vessel.
Both US warships avoided a collision and continued on their way through international waters, officials said.
CENTCOM declined to identify the type of laser employed by US forces or say whether it was handled by sailors or embarked Marines or soldiers.
It’s not the first Iranian provocation involving blinding lights beamed across the strait.
The US Navy's guided-missile destroyer The Sullivans (DDG 68) sails alongside the dry cargo and ammunition ship Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) and the British guided-missile frigate Lancaster (F229) in the Persian Gulf on Nov. 18, 2022. US Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Kelly Harris.
On June 13, 2017, the Pentagon blamed an Iranian missile boat for aiming a laser at the guided-missile destroyer Cole and a spotlight at the amphibious assault ship Bataan while the warships sailed international waters near the dry cargo ship Washington Chambers.
Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter pilots wearing night vision goggles also caught the laser glare, officials said.
The latest spat at sea with Iran came only four days after a boarding party from the Lewis B. Puller seized an unflagged fishing trawler sailing the Gulf of Oman loaded with more contraband arms bound for Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to the US 5th Fleet.
Sailors cataloged more than 1 million rounds of 7.62mm ammo; over 25,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammo; nearly 7,000 proximity fuzes for rockets; and more than 2,100 kilograms of propellant for rocket-propelled grenades, officials said.
Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Spartan, practice marksmanship at sea on the expeditionary sea base Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), in the Persian Gulf, Nov. 11, 2022. US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Chris Oposnow.
After a week of counting the contents of its hold, sailors from the patrol coastal ship Hurricane and Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians estimated it held 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidizer that’s often used to make explosives and rocket fuel.
They also uncovered 100 tons of urea fertilizer, a compound with dual uses for agriculture and, in its nitrate form, explosives.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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