US military officials said in a press release on Saturday that the country’s air force and navy held live-fire training in the Persian Gulf earlier this week, in what coincided with Washington’s warning that vessels should stay away from American warships in the area.
During the drills conducted between 19 and 21 May, a US Air Force AC-130 gunship interacted with the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
Captain Lance Lesher, commander of the Bataan ARG, described the exercises as “a great opportunity to incorporate the awesome firepower of the AC-130W into our Navy-Marine Corps live-fire training, rehearsing swift and lethal strikes with pinpoint accuracy against surface targets representing notional threats to the ARG/MEU”.
He also referred to “complex coordination” that involved the Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), the Marine Corps, as well as Navy forces and which “further expands our capability to defend ourselves against any threats we might encounter while operating lawfully in support of maritime security and our regional partners” in the Gulf.
Iran Vows to Continue Its Persian Gulf Missions Despite US Warning
Lesher made the remarks after the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) cited an unnamed source as saying that the Iranian Navy would go ahead with its Gulf missions despite a new directive issued by the US military on Tuesday.
The document warned of the US’ possible defensive measures if American warships are approached by armed vessels at a 100-yard (about 91-metre) radius in the Gulf.
The directive stressed the need to enhance safety, minimise ambiguity, and reduce opportunities for miscalculation due to "recent events".
In April, President Donald Trump instructed the US Navy to destroy all Iranian gunboats that sailed too close to American warships. The order came after an incident in the Gulf in which numerous patrol boats operated by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sailed back and forth across the paths of several US vessels when they were engaging in drills just a few miles from Iranian waters.
Tehran condemned the drills, insisting that they undermined regional security, and warned the US against preparing any military moves against the Islamic Republic.
US-Iran Tensions Persist
Simmering tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated in early January, when top IRGC General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated in a targeted US drone attack authorised by President Trump.
In retaliation, Iran launched dozens of missiles at two military bases housing US troops in Iraq on 8 January, with over 100 American troops diagnosed with brain injuries of various levels of severity as a result of the strikes. The Tehran-Washington tensions have been ongoing since POTUS announced Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also reinstating tough economic sanctions against Iran.