U.S. Blames Iran for Drone Attack on Tanker Near Oman

November 16, 2022 10:03 AM - Updated: November 16, 2022 5:05 PM
Pacific Zircon Image via Vessel Finder

This story has been updated with more information from U.S. Central Command.

U.S. Central Command and Israeli officials are blaming Iran for a Tuesday attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman.

Tanker Pacific Zircon was 150 miles off the coast of Oman when what U.S. officials described as an unmanned aerial vehicle hit the ship at about 10:00 p.m. local time, according to CENTCOM.

“On Nov. 15, at approximately 10:00 p.m. in the Gulf of Oman, an Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle conducted a one-way attack against the Pacific Zircon, a Liberian-flagged, commercial tanker,” CENTCOM said in a statement. “Though there was damage to the vessel, there were no casualties. Exploitation of the debris that hit the vessel reveals that it was a Shahed-series one-way attack drone.”

U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Chinook (PC-9), and a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, in addition to United Kingdom Royal Navy Duke-class Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster (F-229), went to the area following the incident.

“We are in communication with the vessel and there is no reports of injuries or pollution. All crew are safe and accounted for,” reads a statement from tanker owner Eastern Pacific Shipping – owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.
“There is some minor damage to the vessel’s hull but no spillage of cargo or water ingress.”

Shahed 136 drones. Iranian military photo

In a statement to USNI News, CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael Kurilla said, “this Unmanned Aerial Vehicle attack against a civilian vessel in this critical maritime strait demonstrates, once again, the destabilizing nature of Iran’s malign activity in the region.”

An unnamed Israeli official told Agence France-Presse newswire that the Iranians used a Shahed 136 explosive drone in the attack as part of an effort to disrupt the Sunday start of the World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar. Iran is selling Shahed 136 to Russia for use in the invasion of Ukraine.

The delta-winged drone is similar to the one that killed two people aboard merchant tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman last year. In an investigation of the incident, CENTCOM determined that a one-way drone was loaded with military-grade explosives and launched from Iran.

Iran has not taken responsibility for the attack.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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