On Saturday, the U.S. Navy announced that a group of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) speedboats and a larger support vessel swarmed two U.S. Coast Guard vessels on April 2, maneuvering within 70 yards of the U.S. vessels in what the U.S. Navy called “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers.
The Iranian vessels reportedly harassed the U.S. vessels for around three hours, all while ignoring warnings blared from the U.S. vessels. The Navy has since released a video of part of the encounter, showing the larger IRGC vessel the Shahid Nazeri, designated by the U.S. as the Harth 55, cutting in front of the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Monomoy (WPB 1326).
In the video, the Harth 55 can be seen sailing just in front of the Monomoy’s bow. The Iranian ship’s actions forced the U.S. ship to conduct a defensive maneuver to avoid a collision.
The incident went unreported for nearly a month before U.S. Navy officials disclosed the incident in an April 24 press release. U.S. Navy officials said three Iranian fast attack crafts and the larger 180-foot Harth 55 swarmed around the Monomoy and another Coast Guard cutter, the USCGC Wrangell (WPB-1332) as they patrolled international waters in the Persian Gulf as part of a routine maritime security patrol.
The Navy released additional photos of the Harth 55 cutting in front of the Coast Guard ship.
Iran has used similar swarm boat methods in the past to harass U.S. ships. In April of 2020, after 11 Iranian gunboats swarmed around six U.S. warships, then-President Donald Trump said he had instructed the U.S. Navy to fire on Iranian gunboats “if they harass our ships at sea.” Following Trump’s warnings, Iran unveiled 112 more weaponized speedboats and vowed to continue to make U.S. warships “sense us even more.”
This latest incident was the first time Iran’s Harth 55 vessel was used as part of the swarm boat tactics. Past incidents have only seen Iran’s smaller speedboats taking part in the harassing maneuvers around U.S. ships. The Harth 55 is a high-speed catamaran-like vessel the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence has classed as a support ship. According to Iran’s Fars News, the vessel can carry up to 100 troops and has room on its deck for a helicopter landing pad.
The USCGC Monomoy and the USCGC Wrangell are deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force 55, which is comprised of both U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessels.
The April 2 incident came on the same day President Joe Biden’s administration announced it would begin indirect talks with Iran regarding returning the U.S. to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.