In what appears to be the second high profile failure of the Iranian military in 2020, an Iranian Navy support ship was struck by an anti-ship missile fired by a nearby Iranian frigate on Sunday, killing at least 19 and injuring 15 others.
“On Sunday evening… during naval exercises performed by a number of the naval force’s vessels in the waters of Jask and Chabahar, an accident happened involving the Konarak light support ship vessel, causing the martyrdom of a number of brave members of the naval forces,” the Iranian navy said in a statement on Monday.
This incident comes amid a period of heightened tensions between the Iranian military and the United States forces operating in the area. It seems clear, at this point, that these heightened tensions have also resulted in at least two serious errors within the Iranian military that have each led to a significant loss of life.
#Iran Navy confirms fatal accident aboard vessel 'Konarak' during exercise but not reports of friendly fire incident involving Anti-Ship Missile (AShM) https://t.co/5QA2gdIXQz pic.twitter.com/QBninLlzZR
— Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) May 11, 2020
The first incident occurred in January, after Iran attacked American installations within Iraq with ballistic missiles and Iranian forces were on high alert waiting for a potential American reprisal. In the hours after the attack, an Iranian air defense unit fired two missiles at what they believed were inbound American fighters. Instead, they brought down a Ukrainian passenger airliner, killing all 176 passengers on board.
In recent weeks, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had ordered U.S. navy vessels to open fire on Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast attack boats that have been harassing ships as they traverse the narrow Strait of Hormuz en route to the Persian Gulf. Iran’s navy exercises over this past weekend were likely meant as a show of force in the face of American pressure. Unlike the unintentional downing of the passenger plane, however, this recent incident occurred during a planned naval operation–which means the mistake was not caused by panicked nerves in a combat situation, but rather a failure of the Iranian navy’s command structure.
Iran has faulted the vessel that was hit for being struck by the missile, indicating in state-owned television news outlets that it was struck by the missile after failing to provide adequate distance between itself and the target it was moving.
“The vessel was hit after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target,” state television reported.