The U.S. Navy prevented a ship from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) from capturing an unmanned surface vessel (USV) operated by the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Arabian Gulf, Aug. 29-30.
However, Iranian media reported quoting government sources that the vessel it attempted to capture, a Saildrone Explorer, was in Iranian waters and was spying on the Iranian Navy vessels.
The U.S. Navy said that the Saildrone Explorer USV that the IRGCN attempted to confiscate is equipped with sensors, radars and cameras for navigation and data collection.
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, a Pentagon statement said.
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.
“IRGCN’s actions were flagrant, unwarranted and inconsistent with the behavior of a professional maritime force,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 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.”
A statement by IRGC Navy released to the media said:
The timely action by the IRGC Navy to control and tow the U.S. vessel was aimed at securing the shipping routes and preventing accidents, as several cases of such incidents have occurred in recent weeks.
After an American destroyer came to the zone and was briefed on the security regulations and safe navigation processes, the sea drone was released at the discretion of the commander of the IRGC Navy’s logistical warship.
In recent weeks, many unmanned American vessels have been deployed to international waters and international shipping lanes from Bahrain without compliance with the protocols on unmanned vessels and sea drones, causing problems in the shipping routes.
Such sea drones, the purpose of whose deployment to the shipping routes is not still clear, could result in unexpected maritime accidents because of the possible disconnection of their navigation communication systems.
The IRGC said the U.S. Navy has released a Hollywood-style account of the story, distorted the reality, and tried to create an epic after the incident in an attempt to cover up part of its failures, the statement said.