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Why Is Iran Attacking Tankers with Drones?

Iran Drone
Saegheh-2 UAV at the Eqtedar 40 defence exhibition in Tehran.

U.S. Navy Confirms Iranian Origins of Recent Drone Attack: In what may seem like something out of a military-themed episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ordnance experts have conclusively linked a recent drone attack off the coast of Oman to the government in Tehran.

Iran and Those Drones

A pair of United States Navy explosives ordnance technicians confirmed Iran’s connection to a November 15 aerial drone attack on a Liberian-flagged commercial tanker that was transiting international waters. Working at a U.S. Navy lab in Bahrain, the experts assessed the damage and collected debris fragments for the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for forensic analysis.

Over just a two-hour survey and evidence collection process, the technicians were also able to obtain explosive residue samples for lab testing.

A self-destructing drone had attacked the Pacific Zircon, a Liberian-flagged, Israeli-affiliated tanker carrying gas oil, last week.

“We see this as an Iranian provocation in the Gulf – it’s not an attack against Israel – it’s the same thing they usually do in the Gulf, trying to disrupt stability and mainly influence World Cup events,” an undisclosed Israeli official told CNN last week.

The drone, reported to be an Iranian-made HESA Shahed-136, did not disable the ship or interrupt its journey. The U.S. Navy confirmed that the drone ripped a 30-inch-wide (76 cm) hole into the back of the ship, and the explosive impact damaged a shipboard boiler, potable water tank, and life raft.

“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,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the top U.S. Navy commander in the Middle East, said in a statement.

Terror Weapon

U.S. 5th Fleet transported the gathered evidence to a lab at its Bahrain headquarters where technicians confirmed Iran’s connection to the attack. The Shahed-136 UAV is the same type of self-destructing drone that Tehran has reportedly supplied to Moscow, and which the Kremlin has been using in recent attacks against Ukraine’s cities.

The delta-wing HESA Shahed-136 has been described as a cheap and easy-to-use drone that can fly at up to 180 km/h (112mph) with a range of 2,500 km (approximately 1,550 miles). Russia has had to rely on the Iranian drones as its stockpiles of missions have been depleted, and it has enabled the Kremlin to strike logistical infrastructure far from the front lines.

Tehran has also supplied aerial drone technology to the Houthis in Yemen used in attacks against Saud Arabia and the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.

Iran Shahed-136 Drone

Shahed-136. Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.

Upon learning of last week’s attack in the Persian Gulf region, the British Royal Navy dispatched the frigate HMS Lancaster (F229) to the scene. U.S. 5th Fleet also directed guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68), patrol coastal ship USS Chinook (PC 9), and a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to assist and assess the situation.

A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    November 23, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    Iran remains a festering boil that should have been lanced 15 years ago.

  2. Arash

    November 23, 2022 at 12:20 pm

    We are just starting.

    You sanction us, we sanction you back.

    And as you can see, we have the means to enforce them too!

    The era of American impunity is over.

  3. Arash

    November 23, 2022 at 12:25 pm

    Dr. Scooter Van Neuter:

    Come get it B.
    You lost a mere 6000 mercenaries in Iraq and you all started crying. Americans want to sit back in the comfort of their homes and wage war by issuing sanctions. It doesn’t work like that with us.
    You don’t get to rule the world for free.

  4. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    November 23, 2022 at 3:43 pm

    Arash, the only reason you and your godless Iranian leaders aren’t already in Paradise is the fact Obama stopped the Israelis from turning your fetid, tyrannical country into a parking lot years ago – a huge mistake.
    While the world’s largest exporter of terrorism is much stronger now, Iran’s government would be quickly decapitated and its military ruthlessly and efficiently neutralized should they make the mistake of crossing the line with Israel or the U.S. – especially after Dementia Joe is removed in two years by the GOP.
    Meanwhile, your own populace is done with the religious whackos that have made their lives a living hell for decades – hopefully, they can unseat these tyrants soon.

  5. Arash

    November 23, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    Dr. Scooter Van Neuter:

    Lol, that’s a lot of big talk for a guy who lost to a bunch of sandals wearing, klashnikov yielding Taliban after wasting their blood and treasure for 20 years!

    There is no scenario in which Israeli survives Islamic republic of Iran and they know it.

    On Nov 10, 2022 We tested ICBM tech. Something you don’t hear much about because of how freaked out your censors are.
    Soon, there will be no scenario in which American survives Islamic republic of Iran either!

  6. Arash

    November 23, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    Lol, that’s a lot of big talk for a guy who lost to a bunch of sandals wearing, klashnikov wielding Taliban after wasting their blood and treasure for 20 years!

    There is no scenario in which Israeli survives Islamic republic of Iran and they know it.

    On Nov 10, 2022 We tested ICBM tech. Something you don’t hear much about because of how freaked out your censors are.
    Soon, there will be no scenario in which American survives Islamic republic of Iran either!

  7. Jacksonian Libertarian

    November 24, 2022 at 12:35 am

    Destroying Iran’s soft target energy industry would put Iranians on foot and in the dark. We can see from the targets they pick, that it is the attack they fear the most. If Iran was on foot and in the dark, they would not have the resources to fund terror, and the world would be a safer place.

  8. mahdi

    November 24, 2022 at 1:27 am

    Hello and have a good time
    Dear Dr. Scooter Van Neuter
    After November 15, no photos, images or documents related to the Iranian drone have been reported or published. Therefore, the article you wrote has no scientific value.
    In addition, we Iranians are the owners of civilization from east to west and have more than 10,000 years of historical and cultural history.
    With a 300-year-old country, you can never win against the first human civilization.
    In addition, your country is surrounded by resistance forces from the south and north in Canada, and if necessary, we will advise the freedom seekers in Texas and California…

  9. Arash

    November 24, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    Jacksonian Libertarian:

    There is no scenario in which Israel survives an attack on Iran.

    Nor there is a senario in which a drop of oil is produced in Mideast in that event.

    Still waiting for Americans and Saudis to respond to Saudi Aramco attack!

    We got you and your friends by the B!
    Soon we will hold you all under our nuclear sword!

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