US Navy Using Stealthy ‘Convertible’ Sea Drones To Counter Iran

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ANALYSIS – The ongoing ‘gray zone' warfare between the U.S. and Iran often extends to the waters in and around the ‘Islamic Republic.'

To that end, as well as other contentious maritime arenas such as the South China Sea, Ocean Aero is ramping up production of the Triton, a small, autonomous naval vessel () that can stealthily carry weapons and other payloads.

But this is no ordinary sea drone – it is ‘convertible.' The Triton is unique in that it is capable of both sailing on the surface and operating in submarine mode, offering a new dimension in naval warfare and surveillance.

The vessel is designed with stealth in mind. Measuring about 14 feet in length, and 2.5 feet in width, it boasts a low radar and visual signature, making it difficult for adversaries to detect.

This stealth capability is crucial, particularly in confined areas like Arabian Gulf, and , where the currently employs it to counter naval threats from Iran. (RELATED: US Destroyer Shoots Down Attack Drones: Report)

In September, the briefly captured two U.S. Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vehicles USVs in the Red Sea. Unlike the Triton though, these vessels cannot submerge, making them more vulnerable to capture. (RELATED: Iran-Backed Terrorists Have Attacked US Forces 151 Times Under Biden)

USNI News reported at the time:

“The vessels posed no risk to naval traffic and had been operating in the general vicinity of the Southern Red Sea for more than 200 consecutive days without incident,” 5th Fleet said in a statement.

The USVs were collecting imagery near international waters when the IRIN seized and detained them…

The outlet added:

“At around 2 p.m. (local time) on Sept. 1, U.S. 5th Fleet detected the Iranian ship approaching both unmanned vessels and removing them from the water. U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119) were operating nearby and immediately responded. Nitze and Delbert D. Black also each launched an MH-60R Sea Hawk from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 48,” according to 5th Fleet.

Nitze and Delbert D. Black remained on scene communicating with the Iranian warship to deescalate the situation and recover the seized Saildrones. The Iranian warship released the Saildrones at 8 a.m. on Sept. 2.”

This incident came just days after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) tried to capture another Saildrone Explorer in the .

In that instance, the U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12), which was operating nearby, immediately responded and an MH-60S SeaHawk from based in Bahrain was dispatched to the scene.

After the U.S. response, the IRGC cut the line towing the USV and left the waters.

Meanwhile, though harder to spot and capture, the Triton is still considered ‘attritable.' As Medium notes:

With a price tag ranging between $2 and $3 million, the Triton is considered a cost-effective solution in the realm of military hardware. Its operational speed of up to 5 knots is on par with other sailboats, though slower than many naval vessels. The cost-effectiveness is seen in its ‘expendable' nature, being relatively affordable to lose in combat situations, similar to the cost of a Tomahawk missile.

And Ocean Aero is reportedly “not resting on its laurels with the Triton. They are actively working on enhancing its capabilities…”

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