Conflict off Iran involves isle-based ships
Two Pearl Harbor-based ships and a third Navy vessel were involved in a 20-minute confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz with five Iranian fastboats Sunday, according to the Pentagon.
The incident involved the Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, cruiser USS Port Royal and another warship.
The New York Times reported that Cmdr. Jeffrey James, commander of the Hopper, was "very close to giving the order to fire," according to a Navy official. "We were perilously close to an incident where we would have taken out at least one of the Iranian small boats."
The Hopper had trained an M-240 machine gun -- which fires upward of 10 armor-piercing slugs per second -- on one of the Iranian boats that had pulled to within 200 yards of the American vessel, well within the gun's range, Pentagon officials said. But before the order to fire was issued, the Iranian boat suddenly steered away from the Hopper.
CNN reported that the Iranians were warning the American vessels to stay away from Iranian territorial waters. Defense Department officials said the five speedboats belonged to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The incident happened in international waters in a narrow but vital passageway where millions of barrels of oil transit each day. The incident occurred a day before President Bush was to arrive for a weeklong visit to the region.
The Port Royal, skippered by Capt. David Adler, and the Hopper left Pearl Harbor on Nov. 12 and joined the San Diego-based Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group for a six-month deployment in the western Pacific.
The frigate USS Ingraham, normally based at Everett Naval Station in Washington and also a member of the Tarawa Strike Group, was the third U.S. warship in the Iranian confrontation.
Pearl Harbor sailor declared dead
A 24-year-old Pearl Harbor sailor, who has been missing since falling overboard last week while serving on the guided missile destroyer USS Hopper in the Persian Gulf, has been declared dead.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Menelek M. Brown of Roswell, N.M., was last seen on the deck of the Hopper on Thursday.
The Navy said the 505-foot Hopper and several other ships turned around and conducted "an extensive search" for Brown after he was reported missing.