Saturday September 03, 2022

Iran briefly seizes 2 US sea drones in Red Sea amid tensions

Iran briefly seizes 2 US sea drones in Red Sea amid tensions

A Saildrone Explorer unmanned sea drone sails in the Gulf of Aqaba on Feb. 9, 2022. AP

Iran's navy seized two American sea drones in the Red Sea before letting them go Friday as US warships neared, officials said, in the latest maritime incident involving the Navy's new drone fleet in the Mideast.

Iranian state television aired footage it said came from the deck of the Iranian navy’s Jamaran destroyer, where lifejacket-wearing sailors examined two Saildrone Explorers. They tossed one overboard as another warship could be seen in the distance.


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State TV said the Iranian navy found "several unmanned spying vessels abandoned in the international maritime routes” on Thursday.

"After two warnings to an American destroyer to prevent possible incidents, Jamaran seized the two vessels,” state TV said. "After securing the international shipping waterway, the Naval Squadron No. 84 released the vessels in a safe area.”

Iran briefly seizes 2 US sea drones in Red Sea amid tensions
Iranian navy sailors throw an American sea drone overboard in the Red Sea on Sept. 1, 2022. AP

It added: "The US Navy was warned to avoid repeating similar incidents in future.”

The US Navy's Mideast-based 5th Fleet identified the seized drones as Saildrone Explorers. Those drones are commercially available and used by a variety of clients, including scientists, to monitor open waters.

"The unmanned surface vessels were unarmed and taking unclassified photos of the surrounding environment while loitering in an assigned patrol area at least 4 nautical miles from the nearest maritime traffic lane,” the 5th Fleet said.

"The vessels posed no risk to naval traffic and had been operating in the general vicinity of the Southern Red Sea for more than 200 consecutive days without incident.”

The Navy's guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze and USS Delbert D. Black responded to the seizure at 2pm on Thursday and each deployed MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters, the 5th Fleet said. Iran ultimately released the drones at 8 a.m. Friday.

Initially, the Iranian sailors tried to cover the drones with tarps and deny they had them, a US defense official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss unpublicised details about the incident.

This marks the second such incident in recent days as negotiations over Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers hang in the balance.

Associated Press


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