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Watch: Iranian Attack-Boats Swarm U.S. Destroyer

Iran's swarming tactics can overcome the U.S. Navy's technological superiority.

CORRECTING NAME OF THE GULF IN IPTC Members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard show their skills in attacking a naval vessel during military exercises in the Gulf on April 22, 2010. Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards launched a new "ultra-fast" boat capable of causing high destruction after testing it in a key oil supply route, at the start of a three-day military drill.  AFP PHOTO/FARS NEWS/MEHDI MARIZAD (Photo credit should read )
CORRECTING NAME OF THE GULF IN IPTC Members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard show their skills in attacking a naval vessel during military exercises in the Gulf on April 22, 2010. Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards launched a new "ultra-fast" boat capable of causing high destruction after testing it in a key oil supply route, at the start of a three-day military drill. AFP PHOTO/FARS NEWS/MEHDI MARIZAD (Photo credit should read )

Four Iranian attack-boats sped dangerously close to the U.S. destroyer Nitze this week, in a reminder of Iran’s power to disrupt U.S. naval operations in the Strait of Hormuz — the entryway to the Persian Gulf, a strategic waterway through which more oil passes than at any other maritime chokepoint.

Video footage shows the vessels swarm in a serpentine formation toward the much larger U.S. craft.

“Bridge to bridge COMMS were conducted but no response. Weapons uncovered … appears to be unsafe, unprofessional,” a sailor says into a radio as horns blare to ward off the Iranian ships.

The ships belonged to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which maintains its own navy in parallel to that of the regular armed forces.

The IRGC navy defends Iranian coastal waters and has the capability to sink larger U.S. naval craft and deny them easy control over the straits.

Under an IRGC “swarming” attack, Iranian fast boats, typically armed with anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes, would set off in a dispersed fashion from hidden coves or small islands scattered across the Persian Gulf and then converge to surprise attack an enemy ship.

The U.S. Navy is researching ways to counter Iran’s asymmetrical advantages. One promising solution? Laser weapons. And, unsurprisingly, the first U.S. ship to carry such experimental technology is currently stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Photo credit: MEHDI MARIZAD/AFP/Getty Images

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. @HenryJohnsoon

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