Washington: An Iranian ship seized an unmanned U.S. military survey vessel in the Gulf, but released it after U.S. Navy patrol vessels and helicopters were deployed to the location, the Pentagon said Tuesday. The U.S. Central Command’s 5th Fleet saw her Shahid Baziar, a support ship for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, in tow her 7-meter Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) late Monday. said to have found

A U.S. Navy drone equipped with an array of sensors, radar and cameras was collecting navigation and other unspecified data in international waters, the Fifth Fleet said in a statement. When an Iranian ship was seen towing an unmanned boat, US forces dispatched the USS Thunderbolt coastal patrol vessel, which was operating nearby, to the scene.

In addition, a Bahrain-based MH-60S Seahawk helicopter flew to the location. These actions caused “the IRGCN vessel to cut the tow line to the USV and departed the area about four hours later,” the 5th Fleet said, adding that no further incidents occurred.

“IRGCN’s actions were flagrant, unjustified and inconsistent with those of professional maritime forces,” U.S. Navy Central Command Commander Lt. Gen. Brad Cooper said in a statement. “The U.S. Navy remains vigilant and will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits, promoting a rules-based international order throughout the region,” he added.

Equipped with solar panels and a 5-meter high sail wing, the Saildrone Explorer is powered by solar and wind energy and can be deployed on missions at sea for up to a year and monitored remotely by a human pilot. Collect a wide range of maritime, navigational, meteorological and strategic intelligence.

The Fifth Fleet stressed that while the ship is owned by the U.S. government, the technology on board is “commercially available” and “does not store classified or sensitive information.” The US Navy first began operational testing of her USV in the Gulf of Aqaba last December. – AFP

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