US Marines helicopter fires flares at Iranian boat after laser provocation

US Navy file photo of a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter

A U.S. Marines helicopter fired flares at an Iranian patrol boat in the Strait of Hormuz after it shined a laser at the helicopter.

The incident, which was deemed an unsafe encounter by U.S. officials, took place on Tuesday.

In addition to the Marine CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, Iranians pointed the laser at two U.S. Navy vessels operating in the strait.

According to U.S. Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, a U.S. Fifth Fleet spokesman, the Iranian boat came within 800 yards of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, scanning it from bow to stern with the laser.

The other vessel that had the laser shined on it was guided-missile destroyer USS Cole.

Urban explained that “Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles.”

The incident is the latest in a series of run-ins between Iranian and U.S. forces in the region. In a previous incident from January 8, destroyer USS Mahan was forced to fire warning flares while a helicopter dropped a smoke float after four Iranian vessels approached the destroyer at high speed.

According to the Pentagon, there had been 35 similar incidents of unsafe or unprofessional behavior by Iranian vessels in 2016.

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