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

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Pacific Zircon (Photo: MarineTraffic.com/marc boucher)

A U.S. Navy laboratory in Bahrain has confirmed Iran’s link 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 disposal technicians boarded the tanker Pacific Zircon to assess damage and collect debris fragments from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for forensic analysis following an attack on the vessel on 15 November.

During a two-hour investigation and evidence-gathering process, technicians also obtained samples of explosive residue for lab testing.

The US Fifth Fleet transported the collected evidence to a laboratory at its headquarters in Bahrain where technicians confirmed Iran’s link to the attack.

The aerial drone that hit the commercial tanker was identified as a Shahed-136 UAV, which the Navy says matches a historical pattern of Iran’s increasing use of lethal capability either directly or through the through its agents throughout the Middle East.

The Navy added that Iran provided aerial drone technology to the Houthis in Yemen for use in attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.

On November 15, the explosive-laden aerial drone attacked Pacific Zircon around 3:30 p.m. local time in the North Arabian Sea. The explosion tore a 30-inch (76 centimeter) wide hole in the stern of the ship while penetrating and subsequently damaging internal compartments.

The explosive impact of the UAV also damaged an on-board boiler, a potable water tank and a life raft.

On hearing of the attack, Britain’s Royal Navy sent the frigate HMS Lancaster at the scene. The US Fifth Fleet also led the guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivansthe USS coastal patrol boat Chinookand a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to assist and assess the situation.

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