WASHINGTON – A U.S. Navy ship fired on a fast approaching Iranian ship Tuesday in the latest U.S. skirmish with Iranian vessels in the northern Persian Gulf.

The patrol craft USS Thunderbolt fired on an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy vessel in the Gulf at 3 p.m. local time Tuesday, a defense official said, after the Iranian ship sped toward the Thunderbolt and got as close as 150 yards.

“It is out of the norm for them to come in that close at that rate of speed,” a defense official said on the condition of anonymity. “We had to act for the safety of the crew.”

The official was not certain what type of round was fired but said the Iranian vessel stopped its approach after the Thunderbolt fired.

The cruiser USS Vella Gulf and two U.S. Coast Guard vessels were also in the area at the time of the incident, the official said.

Tuesday’s incident is the latest in a string of provocative encounters between Iran and the U.S. in the gulf. In June, an Iranian patrol vessel aimed a laser at a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 Super Stallion that was crossing the Strait of Hormuz causing it to fire flares. In that incident the Iranian vessel got within 800 yards of the USS Bataan then used its laser on the amphibious assault ship.  The Iranian vessel also shined the laser on the USS Cole. 

Iranian patrol craft have engaged twice this year with the guided missile destroyer USS Mahan. In January, the Mahan fired four warning shots at fast approaching Iranian vessels that did not heed multiple calls to stop. In April, Iranian patrol craft moving at a high rate of speed came within 1,000 yards of the Mahan, causing it to alter course and fire flares. 

A U.S. Navy ship fired on a fast approaching Iranian ship Tuesday in the latest U.S. skirmish with Iranian vessels in the northern Persian Gulf.

Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."

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