An Iranian navy helicopter flew very close to a United States warship in the Gulf of Oman in an incident that eventually ended without escalation, a Pentagon official said Nov. 15.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters the helicopter circled the U.S. Navy’s multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex three times, coming within 25 yards of the ship’s port side and, at one point, only about 10 feet off the ocean.
Kirby said the crew of the Essex took the appropriate force protection measures they felt they needed to in accordance with international law.
Kirby called the helicopter’s actions “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”
“When you have another armed force, in this case the Iranian navy, that flies like this you definitely run the risk of some sort of escalation,” Kirby said. “This one ended peacefully, but it doesn’t mean it was safe and professional. It absolutely wasn’t.”
“Tehran needs to be pressed on why they felt like this was a prudent use of their pilots and their aircraft to fly so dangerously close to a U.S. warship and behave in that way,” Kirby added.
He did not specify when the incident took place.
“We’re going to fly, sail and operate where international law permits, and we’re going to continue to look after our national security interests in the region.”
The event comes after the U.S., the European Union and Iran announced this month that indirect talks to resuscitate the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers would resume Nov. 29 in Vienna.
President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal in 2018 and Iran has since violated the deal’s limits on the country’s nuclear development.