Yemeni Houthis ‘seized’ US Remus 600 AUV, sparks Iranian probe

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There’s a video circulating on social media, including platforms like Telegram, claiming to display the capture of US undersea military hardware. Specifically, the video purports that the “yellow gadget” shown is a Remus 600 – an autonomous underwater vehicle from America. 

The rumor suggests that this underwater drone has been transported to Iran, where its construction, components, and operations are being examined by local experts. It’s challenging to verify these claims due to the blurred, low-quality visuals in the clip. The alleged date of this “capture” is also unclear. As it stands, neither the US government nor authorities in Yemen or Iran have confirmed or denied these allegations. 

If confirmed, this could be of great value to the Iranian military. Despite the Remus 600’s lack of offensive capabilities, its ability to counteract mines could revolutionize its military strategy. 

The “counter-mine” Remus 600

To provide some context, the Remus 600 is an autonomous underwater vehicle [AUV] used primarily for hydrographic surveying, addressing mine threats, harbor security operations, environmental monitoring, debris field mapping, and scientific sampling. Produced by Hydroid Inc., a subsidiary of Kongsberg Maritime, this AUV stands out due to its versatility and durability, designed for deployments as deep as 600 meters below the surface. 

Its various applications are well-represented by the US Navy, which uses the Remus 600 primarily for combating mines. The AUV’s high-resolution side-scan sonar allows for the detection, classification, and localization of these underwater threats. Additionally, it proves valuable in hydrographic surveys, creating detailed seafloor maps crucial for navigation as well as for identifying submerged hazards. 

Photo credit: Kraken Robotics

True to its name, the Remus 600 can withstand environments from shallow waters up to 600 meters deep, showcasing its endurance, reliability, and quality data collection. Measuring only 3.25 meters long and 32.4 centimeters in diameter, its compact and lightweight design makes it easy to deploy and retrieve. Capable of reaching speeds up to 5 knots, it can operate for as long as 70 hours on a single battery charge. 

A wide array of sensors

The operational range of the Remus 600 is impressive. Depending on speed and payload configuration, it can cover up to 286 kilometers in a single mission. Its advanced navigation suite, which includes an inertial navigation system [INS], Doppler velocity log [DVL], and GPS, ensures precise positioning and tracking. 

This AUV comes equipped with a wide array of sensors and instruments that enable it to efficiently perform its tasks. These include a side-scan sonar for seafloor imaging, a sub-bottom profiler for identifying buried objects, a CTD sensor for water property measurement, a multi-beam echosounder for bathymetric studies, and a digital camera for high-resolution imaging. 

Photo credit: Hydroid

As for its specifications, the Remus 600 has a payload capacity of 40 kilograms, meaning it can carry a variety of instruments and sensors. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, it boasts impressive endurance. Moreover, its modular design allows for simple maintenance and payload swapping to accommodate different mission requirements. 

Iranian analogues

Several autonomous underwater vehicles [AUVs] manufactured by Iran can be seen as counterparts or replicas of the Remus 600, including ‘Tareq’ and ‘Nahang’. Like the Remus 600, Tareq is an AUV designed for deep-sea explorations requiring long-range capabilities. 

Tareq features impressive navigation and object detection technology, courtesy of advanced sonar systems. Combined with a high-definition camera, it can capture detailed images of the seabed. With operating depths reaching up to 1,000 meters, Tareq is indeed comparable to the Remus 600, which can reach a maximum depth of 600 meters. 

In contrast to Tareq, ‘Nahang’ is smaller and lighter, but its resemblance to the Remus 600 is evident. The Nahang, optimized for shallow water operations, can reach depths up to 200 meters. 

Like Tareq, Nahang is outfitted with sonar systems for navigation and object detection, supplemented with a camera for underwater photography. Moreover, it supports real-time data transmission to a control center via a robust communication system. 

There are differences

Like the Remus 600, both Tareq and Nahang are designed for autonomous functionality. This means they can execute operations independently, making manual intervention unnecessary for extended periods. 

It is worth mentioning that while these Iranian AUVs share many characteristics with the Remus 600, they each have unique features and abilities. For example, Tareq’s long-range abilities contrast with Nahang’s compact size, making them uniquely suited for different underwater missions.

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