The Straits of Hormuz is the nexus of one of the world’s most strategic choke points. Daily, about a fifth of the crude oil being traded globally passes through the waterway, outbound from the Arabian Gulf into the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea and then to points all over the world.
The passage is also on the front line of a long-term standoff: on one side is Iran, on the other the United States, the local states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), and various international coalition members, including the United Kingdom and France. Iran has periodically threatened to block the straits, potentially triggering an international energy crisis, and in times of heightened tension the media sometimes flocks in to witness an armed confrontation.
So far, however, that has yet to happen. But the U.S. and coalition partners keep a close watch on Iranian activities in the Gulf, and Iran returns the favor, patrolling on the sea and in the air.
The two sides have daily interactions which — according to many U.S., British and other military authorities — are largely professional, if curt. The number of provocative small-boat approaches by Iranian forces has lessened, but more Iranian air assets are flying, including more use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
In late February Defense News had the rare opportunity to witness a transit of the Straits of Hormuz, not only from the sea but in the air, aboard a U.S. Navy patrol plane. The story is here, and these images are from those trips.
No major incidents took place during these transits, but they illustrate what a typical Hormuz transit can be like.
We are grateful to the men and women of the U.S. Fifth Fleet — in particular Patrol Squadron 40, USS FARRAGUT (DDG 99), and the Fifth Fleet Public Affairs office — for their support on our visit.
All photos by Christopher P. Cavas[HTML1]
- Suddenly, several small, fast smuggler craft cross our path at right angles. These two Boston-whaler type open boats were empty, headed from the direction of Iran toward the UAE or Omani coast.
- A solitary, heavily-engined fast mover loaded with contraband races across the FARRAGUT’s bow, headed directly for Iranian waters.
For more recent images of U.S. Navy and other ships in the Gulf, see Ships and Units of NAVCENT