LONDON: The US Navy has prevented an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy support ship from capturing an unmanned surface vessel operated by the US 5th Fleet in the Arabian Gulf.
The US 5th Fleet observed IRGCN support ship Shahid Baziar towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel in an attempt to detain it at 11 p.m. local time on Monday.
US Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) was operating nearby and responded to the attempted attack. The US 5th Fleet also launched an MH-60S Sea Hawk from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 which is based in Bahrain.
The actions taken by US naval forces resulted in the IRGCN vessel disconnecting the towing line to the unmanned vessel and departing the area around four hours later, the US 5th Fleet said.
“IRGCN’s actions were flagrant, unwarranted and inconsistent with the behavior of a professional maritime force,” said the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces Vice Adm. Brad Cooper.
Cooper added that “US 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.”
The Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel that the IRGCN attempted to confiscate is US property and equipped with sensors, radars, and cameras for navigation and data collection.
This technology is available commercially and does not store sensitive or classified information, the US 5th Fleet said.
US Central Command commander Gen. Michael E. Kurilla said “the professionalism and competence of the crew of the USS Thunderbolt prevented Iran from this illegal action.”
“This incident once again demonstrates Iran’s continued destabilizing, illegal, and unprofessional activity in the Middle East,” he added.