WASHINGTON (AP/WVEC) — A U.S. military official says a U.S. Navy warship fired multiple warning shots at Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf after the Iranian vessels ignored other warnings.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an incident not yet publicly announced, said a U.S. destroyer, the USS Mahan, was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday when a number of Iranian boats sped toward it and failed to respond to inquiries.

One official said the main concern aboard the Mahan was the speed with which the Iranian boats were approaching, rather than their proximity. This official said the boats were an estimated 900 yards away when the warning shots were fired.

The Iranian boats broke away after the warning shots were fired, and then established radio communication with the Mahan by asking its course and speed.

The U.S. Navy occasionally has confrontations with Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf but they do not usually reach the point of prompting warning shots by the U.S.

"The Revolutionary Guard Corps has a long history of being provocative, of disregarding the rules of the road, In the last year it has really accelerated," said retired Navy captain Joe Bouchard of Virginia Beach, who went through a similar close encounter with the Iranians, with the destroyer he commanded, the USS Oldendorf, in the 1980's.

Bouchard points out this latest incident did take place during an approximately two-month window in which there is a U.S. Navy carrier gap in the Persian Gulf which won't be closed until the USS George H. W. Bush deploys later this month.

"It is possible that the timing of this incident was driven by the absence of a U.S. carrier, creating an environment where the Revolutionary Guard thought they could be bolder," he said.

The Mahan left Naval Station Norfolk back in November to undergo a six-month deployment. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer has a crew of about 300 sailors. The vessel is in the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation.