The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy seized two U.S. unmanned surface vehicles in the Red Sea on Thursday, a U.S. Navy official confirmed to USNI News.
The two USVs, which are operated by U.S 5th Fleet, are now back in U.S. custody, the official said.
The USVs were collecting imagery near international waters when the IRIN seized and detained them, USNI News understands. U.S. naval vessels operating nearby de-escalated the situation.
The incident comes several days after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy tried to capture a Saildrone Explorer USV in the Persian Gulf.
“While transiting international waters around 11 p.m. (local time), Aug. 29, U.S. 5th Fleet observed IRGCN support ship Shahid Baziar towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in an attempt to detain it. U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) was operating nearby and immediately responded. U.S. 5th Fleet also launched an MH-60S Sea Hawk from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, based in Bahrain,” 5th Fleet said in an Aug. 30 statement about the first incident.
After the U.S. response, the IRGC cut the line towing the USV and left the waters.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of U.S. 5th Fleet, called the IRGCN attempt to seize the Saildrone USV “flagrant, unwarranted and inconsistent with the behavior of a professional maritime force.”
Following the first incident earlier this week, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said he would not comment on how regularly these types of seizures might happen.
“So I’m not going to speculate on the hypothetical in terms of how often this could happen. Clearly, Fifth Fleet has it well in hand in terms of patrolling the waterway there, and maintaining situational awareness in terms of their capabilities and assets in the region,” Ryder told reporters on Wednesday. “And again, as was evidenced by the USS Thunderbolt, the ability to respond quickly, should something like that happen again in the future, which hopefully it will not.”