The Wall Street Journal reporter Rory Jones was aboard the USS Boxer in the hours before the US amphibious flattop downed an Iranian drone and recounted a series of tense encounters that led up to the engagement.
According to Jones, the Boxer was leading a flotilla of Navy ships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, where Iran has repeatedly harassed international vessels. Just after 7 a.m. local time, Jones reported, an unarmed Iranian Bell 212 helicopter came so close to the Boxer that it could have landed on deck. A US helicopter chased away the Iranian craft, cutting short an incident that Capt. Ronald Dowdell, the commander of the Boxer, called "surreal."
Shortly after, an Iranian military vessel sailed toward the Boxer flotilla, following it at 500 yards — the exact distance the Navy allows before it warns another vessel not to come closer. Jones reported that a US helicopter flew between the two ships, deterring the Iranian vessel before tailing an aircraft identified as an Iranian Y-12 surveillance plane.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class James F. Bartels )
After these incidents, the Iranian drone came "within a threatening range" of the Boxer, according to Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, prompting the US crew to take defensive action. Military.com reported that the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System aboard the Boxer attacked the drone by jamming its signal.
INSIDER reached out to US Naval Forces Central Command to confirm Jones' account of the hours leading up to July 18, 2019's confrontation and didn't receive an immediate reply. INSIDER has also reached out to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its mission to the UN regarding the incidents in Jones' account.
Iran's deputy foreign minister has denied Iranian involvement, and said that USS Boxer shot down its own drone.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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