US Navy finds the same kind of Iranian suicide drone Russia has been using against Ukraine was used to attack a tanker

  • An Iranian-made suicide drone slammed into a commercial tanker in the Arabian Sea last week.
  • The US Navy identified the drone as a Shahed-136, which Russia has been using to attack Ukrainian cities.
  • A Navy official said the Iranian attack on the ship was "deliberate, flagrant, and dangerous."

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The US Navy says that an Iranian-made suicide drone of the same type that Russia has been slamming into Ukrainian cities was used in a recent attack on a commercial tanker in the Middle East. 

Last week, an explosive-packed drone hit a Liberian-flagged ship transiting the Northern Arabian Sea, the US Navy said in a Tuesday statement. US 5th Fleet collected evidence from the incident and sent it to a lab where technicians confirmed the drone to be an Iranian-made Shahed-136 — a weapon which has been used for months in Ukraine. 

"The Iranian attack on a commercial tanker transiting international waters was deliberate, flagrant, and dangerous, endangering the lives of the ship's crew and destabilizing maritime security in the Middle East," said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who is the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces.

The tanker, Pacific Zircon, came under attack in the evening on November 15. The US Navy said a drone ripped into the back of the ship, caused a 30-inch-wide hole, and exploded, damaging the ship's potable water tank, a boiler, and life raft.   

The next day, US Navy explosive ordnance technicians boarded the wounded tanker to collect debris and inspect the damage. That evidence was then sent off for further analysis at a lab in Bahrain, where Iran's connection to the incident was determined, the Navy said. 

Image taken Nov. 20, showing debris fragments from an Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle collected as evidence by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon, Nov. 16.

Image taken Nov. 20, showing debris fragments from an Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle collected as evidence by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon, Nov. 16. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark Thomas Mahmod

Graphic illustration and images captured by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon, Nov. 16, showing the location where an Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) penetrated M/T Pacific Zircon’s outer hull during an attack Nov. 15. The one-way UAV attack tore a 30-inch-wide hole in the outer hull on the starboard side of the ship’s stern, just below the main deck.

Graphic illustration and images captured by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon, Nov. 16, showing the location where an Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) penetrated M/T Pacific Zircon’s outer hull during an attack Nov. 15. The one-way UAV attack tore a 30-inch-wide hole in the outer hull on the starboard side of the ship’s stern, just below the main deck. U.S. Navy graphic

Images captured by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon, Nov. 16, showing shipboard damage from a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attack the day prior. An attached explosive detonated during the attack, causing a blast pattern that led UAV fragments to subsequently penetrate internal compartments as well as damage a shipboard boiler and potable water tank. A life raft stored on the outside of the ship also suffered minor damage from the blast.

Images captured by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon, Nov. 16, showing shipboard damage from a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attack the day prior. An attached explosive detonated during the attack, causing a blast pattern that led UAV fragments to subsequently penetrate internal compartments as well as damage a shipboard boiler and potable water tank. A life raft stored on the outside of the ship also suffered minor damage from the blast. U.S. Navy graphic

"The aerial drone that hit the commercial tanker was identified as a Shahed-136 UAV, fitting a historical pattern of Iran's increasing use of a lethal capability directly or through its proxies across the Middle East," the Navy said. The sea service added that Iran has supplied drone technology to Houthi rebels fighting Yemen's internationally recognized government. Additionally, these drones have seen action in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. 

Although it's called a drone, Iran's Shahed-136 is actually technically a loitering munition. These long-range and small systems are packed with explosives and can fly around like a normal drone and are capable of lingering over a target area.

But once these munitions are on site, they can be directed at specific targets and then fly straight into them and detonate upon impact. For this reason, the Shahed-136 is often referred to as a suicide or kamikaze drone. Britain's defense ministry has shared that the 440-pound weapons are relatively slow and carry a small explosive payload. 

In recent weeks, these weapons have been thrust into the spotlight for their role in Russia's nine-month-long war in Ukraine.  

Russian forces have used the systems in deadly attacks on Ukrainian cities, often targeting civilian infrastructure hundreds of miles from the war's front lines. Top US officials have said that Russian representatives previously traveled to Iran to learn how to use the drones, which would later be used in attacks, before Iranian military personnel more recently traveled to Crimea to help Moscow operate the weapons.  

Meanwhile, last week's Shahed-136 attack is the second time this month that US Navy forces have reported Iranian influence in waters near the Middle East. Earlier in November, the service said it recovered a "massive amount" of explosive material — used to fuel ballistic missiles — from a fishing boat that was sailing from Iran to Yemen.  


Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/iranian-suicide-drone-russia-uses-ukraine-hit-commercial-tanker-navy-2022-11