Iranian helicopter buzzes American warship in Persian Gulf – report

Iranian media posts video of supposed fly-by, with no overt reaction by the assault vessel during the clip.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An Iranian air force helicopter buzzed an American warship sailing in the Persian Gulf, the country’s Tasnim news agency reported Saturday.

In a video clip allegedly released by the agency that was filmed from inside the helicopter, the aircraft flies very close to the USS Essex, bypassing the entire length of the ship without any seeming reaction. The naval vessel is a Landing Helicopter Dock, and several military aircraft can be seen parked on its long deck. The view then switches momentarily to the interior of the reconnaissance aircraft, where four seated men could be seen.

The alleged fly-by occurred just a few days after it was reported that the Essex and a British vessel, the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, conducted interoperability training together in the area. The American amphibious assault ship is also part of a “ready” group that just conducted a five-day joint exercise in the Red Sea ending Sunday with Israeli, Bahraini and UAE naval forces.

This was the first time the four nations’ navies have trained together. They concentrated on “visit, board, search and seizure tactics,” said the U.S. Central Command’s Fifth Fleet, “to enhance our collective maritime security capabilities.” The Fifth Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, talked of the importance of “safeguarding freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability” in the statement.

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An Israeli naval officer spoke more clearly about the purpose of the drill.

“The Iranians are independent at sea, and must be kept away from the Red Sea so as not to infringe on Israel’s freedom of navigation or to carry out maritime terrorism,” the officer said. Such cooperation with Arab adversaries of the Shiite Moslem country will also “increase the operational range” of Israel’s navy, he said.

Tasnim did not make a big issue of the occurrence, and in fact credited the story to foreign media. The U.S. Navy itself has yet to comment on the supposed buzzing, although it has acknowledged in the past when Iranian vessels or aircraft have come too close to its forces in the Gulf.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Iranian media has published footage that has turned out to be false. Earlier this month, they praised the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for reportedly foiling an American attempt to seize Iranian oil from a tanker in the Sea of Oman. However, the video that accompanied the story was an old one that had been circulating online for several weeks, raising questions about the authenticity of the initial report.