CBS Washington, DC & Los Angeles Times Blog – 2012-07-19 17:34:20
Navy Beginning To Implement Underwater Drones In Gulf
CBS Washington, DC
THE PERSIAN GULF (July 12, 2012) — Hold your breath, drone lovers. Literally.
Amid concerns of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz during a potential crisis, the US Navy is beginning to develop and release a set of underwater drones to find and destroy sea mines present in the Persian Gulf, according to US officials.
Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that tensions concerning Iranâ€™s nuclear program set in motion the reinforcement of US military personnel and weaponry in the region, specifically in the form of the “SeaFox,” a four-foot, 88-pound unmanned, underwater surveillance vehicle thatâ€™s guided by a remote control.
In February, the Navy implemented dozens of SeaFox drones after an immediate request by Marine Gen. James Mattis, the head US commander serving in the Middle East, according to media reports. The underwater drones have been arriving in recent weeks, not a coincidence considering the talks between the US and Iran over the fate of Iranâ€™s nuclear development program have stalled. Officials have said that the advent of the underwater drones would pose a significant commercial threat to maritime traffic.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the first SeaFox drones have been developed by a Germany company that was once owned by BAE Systems, the British defense juggernaut.
The SeaFox drone might be new to American military strategies, but the model has been around for some time now. Costing around $100,000 each, the SeaFox drone has been made available for a decade and is currently used by 10 countries, including Great Britain, according to the Times.
US Moving Submersibles to Persian Gulf to Oppose Iran
Los Angeles Times Blog
WASHINGTON (July 11, 2012) — The Navy is rushing dozens of unmanned underwater craft to the Persian Gulf to help detect and destroy mines in a major military buildup aimed at preventing Iran from closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the event of a crisis, US officials said.
The tiny SeaFox submersibles each carry an underwater television camera, homing sonar and an explosive charge. The Navy bought them in May after an urgent request by Marine Gen. James Mattis, the top US commander in the Middle East.
Each submersible is about 4 feet long and weighs less than 100 pounds. The craft are intended to boost US military capabilities as negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program appear to have stalled. Three rounds of talks since April between Iran and the five countries in the United Nations Security Council plus Germany have made little progress.
Some US officials are wary that Iran may respond to tightening sanctions on its banking and energy sectors, including a European Union oil embargo, by launching or sponsoring attacks on oil tankers or platforms in the Persian Gulf. Some officials in Tehran have threatened to close the narrow waterway, a choke point for a fifth of the oil traded worldwide.
The first of the SeaFox submersibles arrived in the Gulf in recent weeks, officials said, along with four MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters and four minesweeping ships, part of a larger buildup of US naval, air and ground forces in the region aimed at Iran.
The US already has sent two aircraft carriers and a squadron of F-22 fighters to the Persian Gulf, and is keeping two US army brigades in Kuwait. Though much of the buildup has been publicly acknowledged by the Pentagon, the deployment of the submersibles has not been publicly disclosed, apparently to avoid alerting Iran.
The SeaFox is small enough to be deployed from helicopters and even small rubber boats, but it also can be dropped off the back of a minesweeper. It is controlled by a fiber-optic cable and sends live video back to a camera operator.
It can be used against floating or drifting mines, which Iran has used in the past. It operates up to 300 meters deep, and moves at speeds of up to six knots. But the $100,000 weapon is on what amounts to a suicide mission. The “built-in, large caliber shaped charge” it carries destroys the mine but also the vehicle itself.
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