The US Central Command has issued a statement and a multi-page investigative report on the attack on the Mercer Street, a ship that was targeted off the coast of Yemen, escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, as well as the US, UK, and Iran. Iran carried conducted the lethal drone operation, which featured three drones. According to the report, “US analysts decided based on the evidence that this UAV was manufactured in Iran.” Iran has denied these allegations, but the US and the G-7 countries have blamed Iran.
This is not a minor detail. The report is vital and important, and it describes the attacks in depth, and it has new information as well.
The report is titled: “Iranian UAV Attack Against MOTOR TANKER MERCER STREET” and details from it are from US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, the CENTCOM spokesman.
Here is what the team has found. The deadly attack took place on July 30 and involved an explosive unmanned aerial vehicle attack on the tanker. The investigators came from the USS Ronald Reagan, which sent a team to embark on the M/T to examine the evidence and interview the surviving crew members.
On July 29, the team discovered that two drones had attacked the ship. “On the evening of July 29, the crew reported the attacks via distress calls. The investigative team deemed the reports of the attacks, which impacted the sea around the M/T Mercer Street, credible based on crew interviews. Investigators discovered minor parts of at least one of the UAVs that the crew had recovered from the water on Mercer Street, verifying the reports,” according to the report, implying that the first attempt looks to have failed.
Iran decided to continue the attacks, although how they guided the drones and where they flew from is not clear. But a moving vessel is difficult to find and strike with drones. Iran has increased its drone attacks throughout the region in recent months. “The investigative team determined that the extensive damage to the Mercer Street…was the result of a third UAV attack on July 30. This UAV was loaded with a military-grade explosive, and caused the death of two crewmembers; the master of the ship, a Romanian citizen, and a United Kingdom national who was part of the security detail.”
A 6-foot diameter hole in the topside of the pilot house was made by the drones which badly damaged the interior. “Explosive chemical tests were indicative of a Nitrate-based explosive and identified as RDX, indicating the UAV had been rigged to cause injury and destruction.” The experts recovered some parts of the UAV, including part of the wing which was “nearly identical to previously-collected examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs. The distance from the Iranian coast to the locations of the attacks was within the range of documented Iranian one-way attack UAVs. Following an on-scene analysis, some of the material was transferred to US Fifth Fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain and subsequently to a US national laboratory for further testing and verification.”
UK explosive experts also came to examine the evidence. “Evidence was shared virtually with Israeli explosive experts.” There is agreement now with the US assessment that the “UAV was produced in Iran.”
More information is available in a PDF released by Central Command, which states that the drone components have “extremely specific and matching IDs to previously compromised (and known) Iranian one-way attack UAVs.” The deployment of Iranian-designed and manufactured one-way assault “kamikaze” UAVs is becoming more common in the region. Iran and its proxies actively utilise them against coalition forces in the region, including targets in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.” This suggests that this is part of Iran’s regional drone war employing this new technology.
We now know that after the first attack on July 29 the US navy sent the USS Ronald Reagan with the USS Mitscher to establish communications with the Mercer Street and assist. “A US drone was also directed to the area to assist. A helicopter from USS Ronald Reagan located the Mercer Street in a remote area of the Arabian Sea. Working through UKMTO and Zodiac, communications were established with Mercer Street; surviving crew confirmed a Ship Master and a Security Officer had been killed.” By July 31 a team had come to the ship and extracted evidence, and another team followed on August 2.
According to the report, a delta-wing style UAV was used in the attack. It displays old photographs of these drones from 2014 in Iran and mentions that a similar type of drone was discovered in Saudi Arabia as a result of an attack that year. Another delta-wing design UAV was spotted in Yemen in September 2020. Iran provided video of these UAV attacks in January and May. Photos from the 16-page report reveal the extent of the damage inflicted by the drone on July 30.