Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy shined a laser at a Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter during “an unsafe and unprofessional” interaction in the Arabian Gulf on Wednesday, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
The incident occurred as the helicopter assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is deployed with the amphibious assault ship Bataan, conducted routine operations in international airspace.
“IRGCN vessels shone a laser multiple times at the aircraft while in flight,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Spokesman Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer said in a statement Thursday. “Fortunately, no injuries were reported and the aircraft was not damaged.”
“These are not the actions of a professional maritime force,” Chernitzer said. “This unsafe, unprofessional and irresponsible behavior by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy risks U.S. and partner nation lives and needs to cease immediately.”
The AH-1Z Viper, the Marine Corps’ primary rotary-wing ground-attack aircraft, provides close air support, anti-armor, armed escort, armed visual reconnaissance and fire support coordination capabilities under day, night and adverse weather conditions.
It is flown by a crew of two, a pilot in the back and a co-pilot/gunner in the front.
Vipers are fielded in Marine light attack helicopter squadrons. Detachments from the HMLAs are deployed as part of Marine expeditionary units to support ship-based amphibious exercises and operations.
The Bataan and dock landing ship Carter Hall left Norfolk, Virginia, in July with more than 3,000 sailors and Marines onboard for a deployment that the Pentagon said was in response to Iran’s recent attempts to “threaten the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters.”
Air Force F-35 and F-16 fighter jets and A-10 attack jets and the destroyer Thomas Hudner were also deployed after Iran tried to seize two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman on July 5, according to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh.
The U.S. Navy destroyer McFaul intervened in both instances, forcing the Iranian vessels to depart the scene.
“One attempt included an Iranian navy ship firing upon the merchant vessel,” Singh said during a press briefing in July. “In light of this continued threat and in coordination with our partners and allies, the department is increasing our presence and ability to monitor the strait and surrounding waters.”
U.S. Central Command claims Iran has attacked or seized approximately 20 vessels since 2021.