Weapons: Iranian Mystery Mine Hunter

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August 3, 2021: Iran recently put another mine warfare ship into service and prominently displayed on the rear deck was a UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) similar to the Italian Pluto UUV mine hunter. The Iranian UUV prominently displayed “Made In Iran” on it in large English letters. Pluto was one of the first UUVs developed and put into service. An Italian firm developed Pluto, has regularly upgraded it, and the current version is known as Pluto Plus. Nearly 200 of all Pluto models were manufactured and many are currently used in Italy, Norway, Egypt, Vietnam and Spain. The Italian developer granted an American firm a manufacturing license in 2009 to build Pluto Plus for export to American allies. That is where the three Egyptian Pluto Plus UUVs came from. Where the Iranian UUV design came from is still a mystery. Iran usually obtains foreign weapons or equipment before reverse-engineering them and building their own. The early Pluto was not high-tech but subsequent models, especially the Pluto Plus and similar UUVs designed by Israel and other European nations are.

Pluto Plus is a 320 kg (704 pound) 2.3 meter (seven foot) long vehicle with a payload of 100 kg (220 pounds). It has a top speed of 10 kilometers an hour and is battery powered. Endurance is from two to six hours depending on payload and speed. Max depth is 400 meters (1,200 feet). One of the accessories is a wireless link so that it can receive instructions while on the surface and transmit back what it has detected. Sensors usually include sonar for detecting mines on the seafloor. Pluto can also carry explosive packets that can be deposited next to mines and detonate via a timer to give Pluto the ability to move away and avoid damage.

The Iranian UUV was described as developed in Iran and its resemblance to Pluto indicates that Iranian may have gotten access to one of them and reverse-engineered it for one that can be built in Iran. Israel believes this is the UUV Hamas was detected using recently. Israel has not destroyed or captured any of these Iranian UUVs yet but the resemblance to Pluto provides a general idea of what they are dealing with. The Iranian UUV could be used by Hamas for espionage or as a weapon against Israeli ships or offshore natural gas facilities off the Israeli coast near the Gaza border. Israel also develops and markets several UUV systems for mine hunting and destruction and knows how dangerous these systems can be.

 


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