Strait of Hormuz Incident: The recent U.S.-Iranian run-in at sea

On reading reports and scanning the video of the recent U.S. Navy - Iranian Revolutionary Guard incident in the Straits of Hormuz I was struck by how restrained the American forces were and how rash the Iranian.

The Revolutionary Guards broadcast their hostile intent on the radio, manoeuvered to deploy possible mines and then closed to two hundred yards. At some point the defender must respond at these very short ranges or risk passing the point when he can successfully defend against multiple fast closing vessels.

If I was the local naval area commander ashore I would have fully supported these ships captains' right to respond in self defence at this point. Yet the USN ships calmly pressed on and held fire. They had not even fired warning shots.

At the end of the days, they did not because those captains blended their tactical appreciation of events with their responsibility to defend their ship; their knowledge of maritime law, naval doctrine, and the rules of engagement; and their sense of the politico-strategic situation and held back.

In the Persian Gulf we regularly asked our own captains to perform the same balancing act and they never failed us.

On the other hand, the Revolutionary Guard seaborne commanders do none of this nor do they appear to rely on a shore command structure that provides rational direction. The evidence that they do not is backed up their bizarre actions last year against the Royal Navy in the Northern Gulf.

As the posted article suggests, it may be in Iran's interest to provoke an American military response. This suggests these incidents will continue and that we will continue to have to rely on the skills of our captains.

PS. Helicopters provide a way of giving transiting warships maximum warning against small boat forays. In that light, the recent news that the Cyclone will be yet further delayed is now solidly bad news as it means we will have to send the odd ship of ours to this area without one of our few remaining Sea King.