The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday applauded President Trump for instructing the U.S. Navy to “destroy” any Iranian gunboats harassing American ships in the wake of a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf.
“I like that the president warned an adversary,” Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten told reporters Wednesday. “That’s what he’s doing. He’s providing a warning.”
Hyten added: “If you want to go down that path, we will come and we will come large.”
Hyten’s comments come after Trump, early Wednesday, tweeted that he “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
The encounter happened last week. Six U.S. Navy warships were conducting drills with U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters off Iran last Wednesday when they were repeatedly harassed by 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy vessels, the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet reported.
The Iranian ships repeatedly crossed in front and behind the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of one ship, the Puller, with a 50-yard closest point of approach and within 10 yards of another ship, the Maui's, bow, a 5th Fleet statement said.
The Navy also reported that the USS Paul Hamilton, USS Firebolt, USS Sirocco and USCGC Wrangell, as well as the Puller and Maui, were involved in the exercises.
The U.S. crews responded by issuing multiple warnings via radio — including five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-grange acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN, the Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement.
After approximately an hour, the Iranian vessels responded to the radio queries, before maneuvering away from the U.S. ships and increasing the distance between them, according to the Navy.
The Navy said that the Iranian’s dangerous and provocative actions “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision” and were in violation of international maritime “rules of the road.” The Navy also said they were not in accordance with international law to act safely with other vessels in the area.
Fox News' Ben Florance and Jack Durschlag contributed to this report.