The deployment comes as tensions are mounting in the Middle East over a probable pre-emptive strike on Iran by the US or Israel. Iran has threatened to attack the American military bases in retaliation. The Strait of Hormuz is strategically very important, as more than 40% of the world crude oil shipments are passing through it. Earlier Iran had threatened to close down the naval routes through the region, if the US attacks them first.
Weighing just 40 kilograms and measuring around 1.2 metres in length, the portable UUVs are equipped with a video camera, Sonar, and an explosive device. The explosive is to destroy marine mines, if they are detected by the UUV. However, the vessel is not designed to survive the explosion, and it will destroy itself along with the naval mine during the act. According to defence experts, the self-destruction of the UUV is not important, as its main aim is to save the warships and other naval vessels, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the mines.
According to American officials, the purchase of the UUVs was intended to strengthen the mine-sweeping powers of the USN in the Arabian Gulf, especially in and around the Strait of Hormuz. The Germans made their first delivery last month, and the vessels were immediately deployed in the Middle-East. Iran had threatened to use naval mines for the closure of the Strait. The US Air Force had recently deployed a number of Sikorsky MH-53 Sea Dragon Minesweeping Helicopters in the region.
According to analysts, the USN is likely to take as many as 5 to 10 days to re-open the Strait. If Iran closes it down. Financial experts warn that even this short disruption can cause the global oil prices to soar to new highs.