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Iran seizes 2 US sea drones in second incident this week

An Iranian warship seized and briefly held two US Navy sea drones in the Red Sea, according to an American military official, the second time this week an Iranian vessel has intercepted a US water-based drone.

On Thursday night local time, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) warship in the Red Sea, far from Iranian territorial waters, picked two US Saildrones out of the water. ThThe United States says the incident occurred in international waters.

Iranian state television showed what it said was a US surveillance vessel that had been abandoned in the Red Sea and picked up by an Iranian ship. The US says the Iranians seized two US Saildrones and then released them four hours later.via IRIB News

The US official said that later the Iranians loaded the drones onto their ship, the US responded by sending two destroyers that were already in the area to the scene. The US used bridge-to-bridge communication and the Iranians responded, eventually agreeing to release the drones. They held the drones for four hours, the official said, releasing them Friday morning.

According to Iranian state television, the IRIN said that while “establishing the security and safety of shipping in the Red Sea and combating piracy and maritime terrorism, the Jamaran destroyer encountered several small data collection vessels that were abandoned on the international shipping route and took action in order to prevent the occurrence of an accident.”

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday night, a ship from Iran’s other Navy, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), tried and failed to capture a Saildrone in the Persian Gulf, according to the Navy.

At about 11 pm local time, the Shahid Baziar grabbed and towed the unmanned sea vessel in an area patrolled by the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

US Navy Foils Iranian Attempt to Capture Unmanned Vessel in Arabian Gulf
A screenshot from a video shows support ship Shahid Baziar, left, from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel in international waters of the Arabian Gulf on Aug. 30. US Navy file

The USS Thunderbolt patrol ship saw the Shahid Baziar towing the drone, identified itself as a US ship and demanded the drone’s release at least five times, a US defense official said.

The Iranians did not respond, and the Thunderbolt then sent a rigid hull inflatable boat to cut the tow line. The Fifth Fleet also launched a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from Bahrain.

After about four hours, the Iranian ship cut the tow line and let the US drone go.

Iranian state television said that the IRGC Navy accused the US of “fabricating a Hollywood-style story” about Tuesday’s incident.

Dan De Luce contributed.

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