May 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Navy Increases Patrols in Strait of Hormuz

May 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Navy Increases Patrols in Strait of Hormuz

Latest Developments

The U.S. Navy is increasing its patrols of the Strait of Hormuz in response to Iran’s growing threat to commercial shipping and its seizure of two oil tankers during the last two months. Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea, told the New York Times on May 23 that “Iran’s actions are unacceptable.”

Currently, the Navy does not plan to add more ships or planes to the region. It will instead increase the frequency with which the assets already in the area travel through the strait, according to Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the Fifth Fleet. Earlier this month, John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said that the United States was working with the 11 nations that make up the U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct to add more resources to protect shipping in the strait.

Expert Analysis

“No amount of diplomatic protests and tersely worded communiques alone will convince the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect freedom of navigation through some of the world’s most important maritime chokepoints; only American and partner hard power will do that. But flexing American military muscle will only deter Tehran’s maritime aggression if it believes the U.S. might actually throw a counterpunch.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“The U.S. Navy should work with the navies of regional partners, including Israel and Arab countries, to expand the number of patrols in critical maritime chokepoints. This would add additional capacity to deter or counter Iranian malign activities, alleviate strain on the U.S. Navy, and be a steppingstone towards building a unified and militarily capable coalition to push back against Iran.” — Ryan Brobst, FDD Research Analyst

History of Threats and Seizures

Over the past two years, Iran has attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged merchant vessels — and now seized at least six. On May 3, Iranian forces seized the empty, Panama-flagged tanker Niovi in the Strait of Hormuz, surrounding it with a dozen speedboats and diverting it to Iranian territorial waters. Six days earlier, Iranian commandos descended onto the deck of the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet from a helicopter and took control of the vessel. The Advantage Sweet was traveling through international waters off the coast of Oman en route to Houston, Texas, from Kuwait, carrying 750,000 barrels of crude oil.

Key Chokepoint

Iran’s regime has endangered the world’s energy supply for decades by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. The strait, which lies between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, is a crucial maritime chokepoint, with nearly a fifth of the world’s oil moving through it on the way to global markets. In April, the American nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine USS Florida arrived in the region, as the Fifth Fleet warned all vessels in the area to proceed cautiously.

Securing Contested Waters: A Conversation with NAVCENT Commander Vice Adm. Cooper,” FDD Event

Add Israel to the Combined Maritime Forces and its Red Sea Task Force,” by Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst

Iran Seizes Second Tanker Within Week,” FDD Flash Brief

To Stop Iran’s Proxy Terrorists, Stop Iran,” by Bradley Bowman, Joe Truzman, and Ryan Brobst


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy