The Iranian state TV reported on September 2 that two Saildrone Explorer USVs were temporary seized by a Moudge-class frigate, Jamaran, because they were jeopardizing maritime safety in the Red Sea. The US Navy said that Iran released the USVs after an intervention from two of its Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Nitze and the USS Delbert D. Black.
The unnamed US official told The Wall Street Journal that it was not clear if the Iranians kept the cameras, or if they fell off when the Iranians hauled the drones out of the Red Sea and later put them back in the water.
Other official said that the cameras, radars and other equipment installed on Saildrone Explorer USVs are commercially available and aren’t classified technology. Despite of this, seizing the USVs could give Iran a better idea of the system’s capabilities.
The 23-feet-long Saildrone Explorer combines wind-powered propulsion technology and solar-powered meteorological to achieve a mission duration of up to 12 months.
Earlier this week, the US Navy announced that it had prevented a support ship from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy from capturing a Saildrone Explorer in the Persian Gulf. Iranian refuted these accusations, claiming that the USV was temporary seized because it posed a danger to maritime traffic.
The US Navy 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, established last year a special task, known as Task Force 59, to rapidly integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence with its operations. The unannounced object of the task force is to monitor Iran’s activities at sea and potential threats.
It’s worth noting that the 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.