The U.S. Navy has foiled an Iranian attempt to capture an unmanned drone vessel in the Persian Gulf after they were spotted trying to tow it away.
The images, obtained from the U.S. Navy on Tuesday, 30th August, reportedly show an Iranian vessel towing the unmanned US Navy service vessel.
The U.S. Navy said that after one of its manned vessels and a helicopter responded and headed towards the unmanned vessel, the Iranian ship severed its towline and abandoned its attempt to capture it.
The U.S. Navy said in a statement, also released on Tuesday, 30th August: “The U.S. Navy prevented a support ship from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) from capturing an unmanned surface vessel operated by the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Arabian Gulf, Aug. 29-30.
“While transiting international waters around 11 p.m. (local time), Aug. 29, U.S. 5th Fleet observed IRGCN support ship Shahid Baziar towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in an attempt to detain it.
“U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) was operating nearby and immediately responded. U.S. 5th Fleet also launched an MH-60S Sea Hawk from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, based in Bahrain.
“The actions taken by U.S. naval forces in response resulted in the IRGCN vessel disconnecting the towing line to the USV and departing the area approximately four hours later. The U.S. Navy resumed operations without further incident.”
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces said that the “IRGCN’s actions were flagrant, unwarranted and inconsistent with the behaviour of a professional maritime force.”
He added: “U.S. naval forces remain vigilant and will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows while promoting rules-based international order throughout the region.”
The U.S. Navy added in its statement: “The Saildrone Explorer USV the IRGCN attempted to confiscate is U.S. government property and equipped with sensors, radars and cameras for navigation and data collection. This technology is available commercially and does not store sensitive or classified information.
“U.S. 5th Fleet operates a network of manned and unmanned systems in accordance with international law. The integration of unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into fleet operations enhances maritime vigilance for U.S. forces and international partners in waters across the Middle East.”