The US Navy has thwarted an attempt by Iran to capture an unmanned surface vessel in the Arabian Gulf on August 29 and 30.
According to the US Navy, a support ship from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) attempted to seize a USV operated by the US 5th Fleet.
While transiting international waters around 11 p.m. (local time) on August 29, the US 5th Fleet observed IRGCN support ship Shahid Baziar towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in an attempt to detain it.
US Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) was operating nearby and immediately responded. The US 5th Fleet also launched an MH-60S Sea Hawk from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, based in Bahrain.
These actions by US forces led to the IRGCN vessel disconnecting the towing line to the USV and departing the area approximately four hours later. The US Navy resumed operations without further incident.
“IRGCN’s actions were flagrant, unwarranted and inconsistent with the behavior of a professional maritime force,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “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 Saildrone Explorer USV the IRGCN attempted to confiscate is US 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.
US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) began operating the Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in the Arabian Gulf in January this year, as part of the service’s plan to expand US 5th Fleet’s integration of new unmanned systems.
Task Force 59, NAVCENT’s dedicated staff for new unmanned systems and artificial intelligence discovery, initiated Saildrone operational testing off the coast of Bahrain after launching the Saildrone in the Gulf of Aqaba in December 2021.