The USS Boxer deployed electronic measures to dismantle a drone the US says was operated by the Iranian military, according to Pentagon sources familiar with the situation. The Navy says the drone was wrecked on the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday after it approached the ship and repeated warnings went unheeded.
Iran has denied the US claims, stating that all of its drones will be considered – and that the US ship may have accidentally shot down one of its own military drones.
U.S. Department of Defense officials, who were not empowered to speak publicly, said the drone was one of several threats to the boxer as he drove through the narrow waterway near the Iranian coast. It is said that at least one Iranian helicopter and several fast boats drove towards the ship on Thursday morning. The actions prompted the boxer to send a helicopter, which then flew side by side with the Iranian plane to repel him.
The boats eventually followed radio warnings to break contact, but the drone headed for the boxer instead of turning, the sources say. His presence was seen as a potential threat to flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship, which carries a number of helicopters, as well as Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and a handful of fighter jets.
There were also concerns that the drone could pose a direct threat: in recent months, Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been using drones to drop explosives on targets in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia. According to a Pentagon source, the drone was unarmed in Thursday’s encounter.
The first US statements about the incident with the boxer did not contain any detailed information about the crash of the drone. On Friday, a Pentagon official clarified that the boxer was using electronic jammer measures to turn off the drone. The officer did not provide details in order not to disclose information about the ship’s capabilities.
The news site Military.com states that a new Marine Corps anti-drone system was responsible for the Iranian drone crash, although the military did not confirm the report. USNI News notes that the Navy previously announced that the Marines were operating the jamming system on the deck of a US ship. USNI News described the weapon as one of a new series of “non-kinetic systems” that can cause a drone to crash.
President Trump first announced the crash on Thursday afternoon, saying “The drone was destroyed immediately” after closing within about 1,000 meters of the boxer and ignoring the request to resign.
Shortly after Trump’s testimony, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman gave further details, saying a drone approached the Navy ship at around 10 a.m. local time while the ship was in international waters and on an “inbound road transit” von Hormuz “sailed. “”
However, on Friday, Trump said the U.S. ship shot down the drone, contradicting Pentagon officials’ report that the boxer was using jamming features. “No doubt no,” Trump said in the Oval Office, according to a White House pool report. He added, “We shot it down.”
When asked if he was concerned about the possibility of a major clash with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, the pool report quoted Trump as saying, “No, not at all. … We hope they don’t do anything stupid about them. ” When they do that, they pay a price no one has ever paid before. ”
Also on Friday, a senior Trump administration official said the U.S. government had evidence that the boxer destroyed the drone and said more information about the shutdown would come from the Pentagon.
“We have very clear evidence, the Department of Defense issued its statement on the boxer’s actions,” the official told reporters on Friday. “The Iranians don’t have a great story with the truth. We are very confident in the president’s announcement.”
When asked if the Trump administration would take further action against Iran, the official said the US was ready to defend itself.
“It was your drone that approached our ship,” said the officer, adding, “If you keep doing this. If you fly too close to our ships, you will be shot down.”
US military officials say Iranian helicopters and drones often flew near US ships as they crossed the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
In an incident that began in August 2017, according to these officials, a US ship was harassed by an Iranian drone that flew near the ship during night operations. No shots were fired, but the encounter was classified as “clearly unsafe”.