After an Iranian ship pointed a laser at a U.S. Marine helicopter, the flying vessel automatically fired off flares.
Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet called Iran's aggressive actions "unsafe and unprofessional" in the incident, which happened as two U.S. Navy ships and a cargo ship got within 800 yards of the Iranian vessel while traveling in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
"The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) were transiting the strait when the Iranian vessel paralleled the U.S. formation, shining a spotlight on Cole," said Urban.
"Shortly thereafter, the Iranian vessel trained a laser on a CH-53E helicopter that accompanied the formation. The Iranian vessel then proceeded to turn its spotlight on Bataan, scanning the ship from bow to stern and stern to bow before heading outbound from the formation."
"A separate US defense official told CNN that the Iranian vessel was a missile boat and that the use of the Iranian laser was detected by the helicopter which proceeded to fire off flares as part of its automatic defensive measures," writes CNN Politics.
The use of the laser since it was night time put the pilots in the area in danger. Not to mention, it seemed like an ominous move to the U.S. helicopter pilot.
"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," said Urban.
This type of "accident" has happened before. Back in April, an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ship was accused of acting "unprofessional but also proactive" while approaching the U.S. vessel, USS Mahan in the Persian Gulf.
According to Pentagon spokesman US Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, there were 35 incidents labeled as “unprofessional and unsafe” by Iranian vessels in 2016. The majority of which were done in the first half of the year.
Author’s note: It looks like this could cause tensions to rise in that area between vessels. If this was to turn into a shooting war, it could have triggered a much more “unsafe” encounter and potentially the start of a war. Usually when you are "painted" by a missile radar it means someone is about to shoot and you have about two seconds to respond.