US Navy analysis confirms Iranian link to drone attack on tanker off Oman

Pacific Zircon (Photo: boucher)

A US Navy laboratory in Bahrain has confirmed Iran’s connection to an aerial drone attack on a Liberian-flagged commercial tanker transiting international waters in the Middle East earlier this month.

Two US Navy explosive ordnance technicians boarded the product tanker Pacific Zircon to assess the damage and collect unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) debris fragments for forensic analysis following an attack on the ship that occurred on November 15.

During a two-hour survey and evidence collection process, the technicians also obtained explosive residue samples for lab testing.

US Fifth Fleet transported the gathered evidence to a lab at its Bahrain headquarters where technicians confirmed Iran’s connection to the attack.

The aerial drone that hit the commercial tanker was identified as a Shahed-136 UAV, which the navy said fits a historical pattern of Iran’s increasing use of a lethal capability directly or through its proxies across the Middle East.

The navy added that Iran has supplied aerial drone technology to the Houthis in Yemen for use in attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.

On November 15, the explosive-laden aerial drone attacked Pacific Zircon at approximately 15:30 local time in the Northern Arabian Sea. The blast tore a 30-inch (76-centimetre) wide hole into the back of the ship while subsequently penetrating and damaging internal compartments.

The UAV’s explosive impact also damaged a shipboard boiler, a potable water tank, and a liferaft.

Upon learning of the attack, the UK Royal Navy despatched the frigate HMS Lancaster to the scene. US Fifth Fleet also directed the guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans, the patrol coastal ship USS Chinook, and a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to assist and assess the situation.

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