(Newsroom America) -- The United States is bolstering its naval power in the Persian Gulf in response to Iranian military officials threatening to blockade the vital oil trade route, reports said Thursday.
Israel's Daily Ha'aretz newspaper said the build-up of forces has been quietly taking place for weeks following threats by the Iranian regime to blockade the Persian Gulf in response to heightened economic sanctions by the U.S. and the West.
An earlier report in the New York Times quoted an unnamed senior defense official who said the build-up was aimed at sending a message of deterrence to Iran and reassurance to Israel.
"The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ Don’t even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We’ll put them on the bottom of the gulf," the official told the Times.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the U.S. has been deploying scores of unmanned underwater craft that have been purchased recently to seek out and destroy any undersea mines that Iran may attempt to lay.
The miniature submarines – SeaFoxes, each approximately 4 feet long and weighing less than 100 pounds, are equipped with a camera, homing sonar and an explosive charge, the L.A. Times said.
Iranian military officials have said the country could close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passageway through which a third of all seaborne oil trade passes.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said such a move would require a response.
"In addition to the unmanned submarines the U.S. military has deployed four MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters and four minesweeping ships in the region, the Times reported, in addition to two aircraft carriers and a squadron of F-22 fighters previously deployed to the region," Ha'aretz reported.
© 2012 Newsroom America.