At the time of the shooting, the Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol boat, was escorted by the USS Vella Gulf, a 567-foot long guided missile cruiser, and two U.S. Coast guard vessels.
The Iranian ship continued its approach and the USS Thunderbolt again sounded five short blasts, and then warning shots in front of the Iranian vessel. -Iranian relations is continuing to rise as Iran seeks to build up its military capabilities and the United States moves to increase sanctions.
The shots were used as a last resort after the Iranian ship failed to respond to calls over the radio and sound signals from the American ships, including five blasts from the U.S. Navy ship's whistle, an global symbol for danger.
The Thunderbolt was taking part in an exercise with American and other coalition vessels when the Iranian patrol boat approached it, the official said.
The Navy characterized the Iranian boat's actions as not following internationally recognized "rules of the road ... creating a risk for collision".
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The official said the USS Thunderbolt fired the warning shots after attempts to communicate by radio were ignored by the Iranian vessel.
He said the USA ship "had to act for the safety of the crew".
Iran and the US frequently have tense naval encounters in the Persian Gulf, almost all involving the Revolutionary Guard, a separate force from Iran's military that answers only to the country's supreme leader.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force that answers directly to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iranian authorities did not immediately report the incident.
This article has been updated to include new information provided by the U.S. Navy.
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