Second incident highlights Iranian threat to US unmanned fleet

by Jeremy Binnie

A Saildrone Explorer sails in the Gulf of Aqaba off Jordan during testing in December 2021. The latest incident confirmed that the 5th Fleet is using the type for very long-range patrols in the Red Sea. (US Naval Forces Central Command / US 5th Fleet)

Iran's naval forces have highlighted the vulnerability of the US 5th Fleet's new fleet of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) by seizing at least three in less than a week, claiming they were a threat to navigation.

Iranian television broadcasted footage on 2 September showing two Saildrone Explorer USVs on the flight deck of a frigate and then being pushed over the side by sailors.

Iranian media reported that IRIS Jamaran , a frigate that is part of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy's (IRIN's) 83rd squadron patrolling the Red Sea, picked up the USVs after repeatedly finding them in shipping lanes and warning their operators that they were a hazard to navigation. The USVs were then released in a safe area where they were recovered by US units.

The 5th Fleet confirmed that Jamaran

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UK MoD awards UK contracts for next phase of SSN-AUKUS programme

by Kate Tringham

A graphic depiction of SSN-AUKUS. (BAE Systems)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded contracts totalling GBP4 billion (USD4.8 billion) to BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, and Babcock for the detailed design and long leads phase of the UK and Australia's next-generation nuclear-powered attack submarine programme.

As part of their trilateral AUKUS security partnership arrangement, the UK, US and UK in March 2023 unveiled plans that will see the UK and eventually Australia equipped with a future nuclear-powered attack submarine, known as SSN-AUKUS, based on the UK's SSN replacement SSN(R) design and incorporating technologies from all three countries.

Construction of the new boats is set to begin towards the end of the decade, with the first SSN-AUKUS boat planned to enter service with the RN from the late 2030s to replace its Astute-class vessels, followed by the first Australian submarines in the early 2040s.

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Brunei receives second ex-Singapore Fearless-class vessel

by Ridzwan Rahmat

The Royal Brunei Navy's Al-Faruq , seen here during its handover ceremony at RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base on 2 October. (Republic of Singapore Navy)

The Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) has taken delivery of another ex-Singapore Fearless-class patrol vessel.

The vessel, which will be in service as KDB Al-Faruq with pennant number 99, was handed over to the service in a ceremony at RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base in Singapore on 2 October.

Janes first reported in March 2023 that Brunei has agreed to receive two ex-Singapore Fearless-class patrol boats that were decommissioned by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) in 2019 and 2020.

As-Siddiq is the first of these two vessels, and it was handed over to the RBN on 15 March 2023. It was commissioned on 21 March at the RBN's naval base in Muara, Brunei.

Both As-Siddiq and Al-Faruq were transferred as a gift and a token of the close defence relations between the two smallest Southeast Asian countries.

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Romania acquires two ex-Royal Navy Sandown-class minehunters

by Kate Tringham

The Royal Navy's former Sandown-class minehunter, ex-HMS Blyth, is pictured during its decommissioning ceremony on 4 August 2021. The vessel was transferred to the Romanian Navy in September 2023. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has sold two second-hand Royal Navy (RN) Sandown-class minehunters to the Romanian Navy to support maritime security operations in the Black Sea region.

In a 28 September announcement, the MoD confirmed the sale of ex-HMS Blyth , which was decommissioned from RN service in 2021, and HMS Pembroke , which will be retired from service in early 2024.

Ex- Blyth was officially transferred to the Romanian Navy during September, while Pembroke will be transferred in the second quarter of 2024, the MoD said.

The Romanian parliament approved a programme to procure and modernise two second-hand Sandown-class minehunters from the UK on 18 May. Blyth and Pembroke were subsequently sold on behalf of the MoD by the Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA), part of the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support organisation, for an undisclosed amount.

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