Iranian Navy Tries To Steal US Unmanned Vessel At Sea
This is the first time someone has tried to take one of 5th Fleet’s unmanned vessels.
An American unmanned surface vessel in the Persian Gulf was almost taken in the dead of night Monday by an Iranian ship before U.S. Navy forces intervened, according to officials.
The Saildrone Explorer USV was seen in international waters being towed behind the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy support ship Shahid Baziar around 11 p.m. local time “in an attempt to detain it,” a 5th Fleet statement said on Tuesday.
The patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt responded from nearby and a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter was also sent from Bahrain. Bridge-to-bridge communication was used to tell the IRGCN ship that the drone was U.S. government property, Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a 5th Fleet spokesman, told Defense One in an email.
All this “resulted in the IRGCN vessel disconnecting the towing line to the USV and departing the area approximately four hours later,” the statement said.
This is the first time that a state or non-state actor tried to capture one of 5th Fleet’s unmanned vessels, Hawkins said.
“IRGCN’s actions were flagrant, unwarranted and inconsistent with the behavior of a professional maritime force,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet, said in the statement. “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.”
Fifth Fleet uses unmanned systems and artificial intelligence in “U.S. naval operations across the Middle East to enhance vigilance of the surrounding seas,” Hawkins said.
The 23-foot Saildrone Explorer runs on solar power and wind, according to the manufacturer. It carries commercially available “sensors, radars, and cameras for navigation and data collection,” and stores no classified or sensitive information, according to the statement.
In a statement Tuesday Gen. Michael Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central Command, commended the crew of the USS Thunderbolt for preventing the IRGCN from taking the drone.
"This incident once again demonstrates Iran's continued destabilizing, illegal, and unprofessional activity in the Middle East," he said.