Iranian Navy frigate hijacks, then releases two US Navy sea drones

The US Navy has intercepted an Iranian warship that seized and detained two US unmanned surface vessels (USVs) operated by US 5th Fleet in the Red Sea.

Illustration; Photo: US Navy

Two days after Iran was unsuccessful in seizing a similar vessel in the Arabian Gulf, Jamaran (FFLG 76), an Islamic Republic of Iran Navy frigate, seized two Saildrone Explorer USVs operating near one another in international waters before returning the vessels to the US Navy the next day.

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According to the US Navy, the unmanned surface vessels were unarmed and taking unclassified photos of the surrounding environment while loitering in an assigned patrol area at least four nautical miles from the nearest maritime traffic lane.

At around 2 p.m. (local time) on 1 September, US 5th Fleet detected the Iranian ship approaching both unmanned vessels and removing them from the water.

USNavy guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119) were operating nearby and immediately responded. Nitze and Delbert D. Black also each launched an MH-60R Sea Hawk from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 48.

The destroyers remained on scene communicating with the Iranian warship to de-escalate the situation and recover the seized Saildrones. The Iranian warship released the Saildrones at 8 a.m. on 2 September.

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 concluded.

American company Saildrone builds the USVs for ocean mapping, and search operations. Recently, the company partnered with defence company Austal USA to work on constructing these vehicles.

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