The US Navy thwarted an attempt by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to steal an American drone in a a tense standoff that ended peacefully, US officials said.
The incident took place in a central part of the Gulf in international waters on Monday night, said Commander Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the Middle East-based 5th Fleet.
The IRGC’s Shahid Baziar warship approached a sea drone forming part of the 5th Fleet’s new drone task force: the Saildrone Explorer. The unmanned vessel carries cameras, radars and sensors for remotely monitoring the sea.
According to Hawkins, IRGC officers attached a line to the vessel and tried to tow it away. A US Navy warship, the USS Thunderbolt, and an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter then approached while the Navy called the Shahid Baziar by radio to identify the drone as American.
The incident ended peacefully some four hours later as the Iranians unhooked the tow line to the drone and left the area.
“This incident once again demonstrates Iran’s continued destabilizing, illegal and unprofessional activity in the Middle East,” Hawkins said.
“Our response was one that as such made clear that this was US government property and was operating in international waters, and that we had every intention to take action if necessary.”
The Islamic Republic has not acknowledged the incident.