An Iranian warship was “accidentally hit by a missile” fired by another Iranian ship during an exercise in the Gulf of Oman. The accident killed 19 Iranian sailors and wounded 15 more.
The stricken support ship Konarak was hit by a new anti-ship missile being tested by the frigate Jamaran during an exercise on Sunday. Iranian state media initially reported that the ship had sunk, but later said that it was towed to port for “an inspection.”
The Konarak had been putting targets out in the water in the Strait of Hormuz and remained too close to one, according to the statements of the Iranian Navy. “The vessel was hit after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target,” Iranian state television reported.
“The circumstances of the incident are currently undergoing technical examinations,” Iran’s Student News Agency (ISNA) said.
The Iranian military released a statement on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ website saying, “On Sunday afternoon, during an exercise by a number of the navy’s vessels in Jask and Chabahar waters, the Konarak light support vessel had an accident. The number of this accident’s martyrs is 19 and 15 have also been injured.” The statement added that the vessel had been towed ashore.
The incident took place near the port Jask, about 790 miles southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman.
According to state media, the Dutch-made Hendijan-class support ship Konarak had been overhauled in 2018. The 47-meter (155-foot) vessel could carry up to 40 tons; it usually had a crew of 20 soldiers.
Iran regularly holds military exercises in the area, which is closed off to the Strait of Hormuz. Some 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through the Strait.
The U.S. Navy also monitors the area. It has not yet commented on the accident.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran are at an all-time high with Iranian proxy militias firing missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. The U.S. military has responded with massive airstrikes on Iranian led militias. In the ensuing tit-for-tat, following an Iranian-organized attack at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, an American drone missile attack killed Iranian Quds commander MG Qassem Soleimani and the deputy commander of the Iranian militias.
This isn’t Iran’s first or even their most deadly gaffe in the ongoing regional escalation of violence. Shortly after Iran launched a multitude of ballistic missiles at the U.S. bases in Iraq after the killing of Soleimani, Iran’s air defenses shot down a Kyiv-bound Boeing 737 passenger jet over Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.
The military was forced to admit to the catastrophic error, saying it occurred as Iran’s air defenses were on high alert after firing the barrage of missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq.
Yet this latest blunder took place in entirely different circumstances. This wasn’t about nervous radar operators watching for American missiles coming onto their screens, rather it happened during a planned naval exercise.
Why was the support ship Konarak “too close” to the target? Did the captain not take into consideration the proximity to and danger of the incoming missiles? Or was this another case of a trigger happy weapons operator, who was in a rush to launch his missiles? In either case, this raises all sorts of red flags about the lack of command and control and the professionalism of the Iranian navy.