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U.S. Helicopter Targeted by IRGCN Laser Attack

US AH-1Z Viper

The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command reported an incident (September 27) involving Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) directing a laser at a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter, labeling the interaction as unsafe and unprofessional in the Arabian Gulf last Wednesday. The helicopter, part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit operating from the amphibious assault ship Bataan, was conducting routine operations in international airspace when the incident occurred.

The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Spokesman Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer conveyed in a statement on Thursday that the IRGCN vessels repeatedly shone a laser at the aircraft during flight. Despite no reported injuries or damage to the aircraft, Chernitzer criticized the actions as unprofessional and irresponsible, emphasizing the unnecessary risk it poses to U.S. and partner nation lives and calling for an immediate cessation of such behavior.

Shining lasers at aircraft during flight can present multiple significant risks and hazards. A strong laser can cause flash blindness, a temporary visual impairment similar to the effect of looking directly at the sun. This can lead to a loss of situational awareness and control of the aircraft. Prolonged exposure to laser light can cause permanent damage to the eyes, potentially leading to partial or complete loss of vision. in many countries, including the United States, law enforcement and aviation authorities take shining lasers at aircraft very seriously. In the U.S., knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a federal offense punishable under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Convicted individuals can face up to 5 years in federal prison and fined up to $250,000.

The USS McFaul, a guided-missile destroyer, and the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Lancaster were dispatched in response to the incident. The AH-1Z Viper, the Marine Corps’ main rotary-wing ground-attack aircraft, is integral for various military operations, including close air support and anti-armor operations.

The deployment of the Bataan and the dock landing ship Carter Hall from Norfolk, Virginia, in July, with over 3,000 personnel onboard, was a response to Iran’s attempted disruptions to commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and nearby waters.

Following attempts by Iran to seize two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman on July 5, the U.S. also deployed Air Force F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, A-10 attack jets, and the destroyer Thomas Hudner. The USS McFaul intervened in both attempted seizures, with one involving an Iranian navy ship firing upon a merchant vessel. The U.S. Central Command asserts that Iran has attacked or captured around 20 vessels since 2021, underscoring the ongoing threat in the region.


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