Defense News was given a rare opportunity to view the strait from two perspectives — first, onboard a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft then onboard Farragut as it made its way from Bahrain out to the ocean
Hormuz Transits: Never Dull, Never Routine, Always Tense
This is definitely a place, not just a patch in the sea.
The land can close in on both sides — Iran to the north, Oman or the United Arab Emirates to the south. The waterway is crowded with ships, among them the world’s largest oil tankers, big container ships, small dhows and merchantmen, tiny fast smuggling craft darting across traffic, gray warships lurking in the haze.
At the strait’s narrowest point, 21 miles across, the traffic separation scheme (TSS) — a sort of highway on the sea with inbound and outbound lanes, separated by a neutral buffer zone — requires great attention from bridge watches to maintain proper distances between ships and avoid collisions, no easy feat when maneuvering enormous vessels that require miles to stop.
On the radio, perfunctory queries from Iranian, Omani or UAE authorities seek information from unknown contacts. All merchant ships and aircraft are required to broadcast, or “squawk,” their identities on automated identification systems. But the warships and military aircraft operating in and over the strait don’t squawk, leading to dozens of calls for an “unknown” or “coalition” warship or aircraft to identify itself — which it does, sometimes.
Tensions are only heightened by the political volatility of the waterway, one of the world’s most strategic chokepoints. The long-running standoff between Iran, other gulf nations and the U.S. and its coalition partners is at its most acute here, where all the interested partners are routinely active.
In times of crisis, the media tends to portray every U.S. transit of the Strait of Hormuz as a confrontational challenge, particularly if Iranian officials have threatened ……[access full article]