- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claim to have seized an U.S. underwater surveillance drone operating off the Yemeni coastline, posting video on Tuesday of rebel fighters pulling the unmanned system from the Gulf of Aden.

Rebel forces detected and seized the REMUS 600 autonomous mini-submarine, designed to carry out anti-mine operations and conduct long-range maritime surveillance, on Monday according to reports on Houthi-controlled media outlets in Yemen.

Rebel leaders say the drone, developed by Norwegian-based defense firm Kongsberg with the assistance of the Office of Naval Research, was part of Washington’s continued military support to the Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi forces in the country.

An earlier version of the underwater drone, dubbed the REMUS 100 and known within the U.S. Navy’s arsenal as the Mk-18 Mod 1 Swordfish, was used to clear anti-ship mines in the southern Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr in 2003, according to a Office of Naval Research factsheet. The REMUS 600, also known as the Mk-18 Mod 2 Kingfish, replaced the Swordfish in 2010.

“As part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Fastlane initiative in 2011, 5th Fleet began receiving accelerated deliveries of Mk-18 [underwater drones] … meeting the urgent need for mine-hunting capabilities in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility,” according to U.S. Navy officials.

U.S. forces in the Pacific lost a similar underwater drone to Chinese forces in December 2016. Thew crew of a Chinese Dalang III-class warship seized one of two “ocean glider” surveillance drones off the coast of the Philippines, after confronting the U.S. Naval Ship Bowditch, which was attempting to retrieve the drones from international waters.

Beijing eventually agreed to return the maritime drone to U.S. forces, which claimed the drone was “collecting unclassified information” on oceanographic details and was not part of any intelligence gathering operation in the South China Sea, Pentagon officials said at the time.

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