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Iranian forces aimed laser at American military helicopter "multiple times," U.S. says

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Iranian naval forces repeatedly aimed a laser at an American military helicopter during a routine flight in international airspace over the Gulf, the U.S. military said Thursday.

The helicopter -- an AH-1Z Viper -- is attached to a unit deployed on the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship, which was sent to the region as part of American efforts to deter seizures of commercial tanker ships by Tehran.

Iranian "vessels shone a laser multiple times at the aircraft while in flight" on Wednesday,

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Commander Rick Chernitzer said in a statement.

No one was injured and the helicopter was not damaged.

"These are not the actions of a professional maritime force. This unsafe, unprofessional, and irresponsible behavior by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy risks U.S. and partner nation lives and needs to cease immediately," Chernitzer added.

An aviation Boatswain's Mate signals to the pilots of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter as it departs from the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) on June 7, 2022, during the BALTOPS 22 Exercise in the Baltic Sea.  JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. military says Iran has either seized or attempted to take control of nearly 20 internationally flagged ships in the region over the past two years.

"U.S. naval forces remain vigilant and will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows while promoting regional maritime security," Chernitzer said.

There have been a series of such incidents since then-U.S. president Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic.

In June, a U.S. Navy warship fired a warning flare to wave off an Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat coming straight at it during a tense encounter in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Also this year, the U.S. Navy said Iranian forces seized two oil tankers -- one headed for Texas -- within one week in the Gulf of Oman.

In 2021, the Pentagon accused Iran of "unsafe and unprofessional" conduct by a naval helicopter that it said flew within about 25 yards of a U.S. Navy ship and circled it three times in the Gulf of Oman. Video published by Iranian media appeared to show the helicopter flying low and coming close to the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship.

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