A new report says Iran has removed the cameras from two American sea drones it seized and released in the Red Sea on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed US official as saying Friday afternoon that Iran returned the two captured maritime drones after being confronted by US destroyers but the unmanned vessels were missing their cameras.
The official, however, claimed that it was not clear if the Iranians kept the cameras or if they fell off when the Iranian navy ship hauled the drones out of the water and later put them back, implying that the cameras on both drones could have fallen off accidentally. The unmanned drones are designed to stay in all weather condition in the sea.
US officials have said that the cameras, radars, sensors and other equipment for navigation and data collection on the drones are commercially available and the technology does not store sensitive or classified information. But retaining the cameras and inspecting the drones up close could give Iran a better idea of the system’s capabilities, which is part of the US advanced aerial and maritime sensors in the region, known as Task Force 59, designed to use artificial intelligence to monitor Iran’s activities at sea.
The disclosure about the cameras is the latest twist in the story of encounters between Iranian and US naval forces this week.
On Tuesday, the US Naval Forces Central Command said that the US Navy prevented a support ship from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Navy -- named Shahid Baziar -- from capturing an unmanned vessel operated by the US 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf.