Iran accidentally fired a missile at one of its own ships, killing 19 people in a disastrous operation that was meant to demonstrate its competence

A handout photo from the Iranian military shows the rear of the damaged Konarak naval support ship after it was hit by a missile in a training exercise gone wrong.Iranian Military via AP
  • Late on Sunday, an Iranian frigate fired conducted a missile test, but hit a friendly ship.
  • The Jamaran was meant meant to hit an unmanned target, but instead hit a support ship, the Konarak, which was towing it.
  • At least 19 sailors were killed, according to Iranian media, with around the same number missing.
  • The exercise was meant to show off the power of Iran's strongest missiles, but instead turned into a disaster.
  • Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.

A naval exercise designed to demonstrate Iranian anti-ship missile technology went terribly wrong on Sunday after Iran's most advanced guided missile frigate, the Jamaran, accidentally hit a support ship instead of the target it was towing.

The disastrous accident killed at least 19 sailors and left as many as 20 more missing from the Konarak support ship, according to Iranian state media reports cited by the BBC.

The failed training exercise was meant to test advanced anti-ship missile systems that make up the backbone of Iran's limited but dangerous naval forces in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.Advertisement

BBC reporter Nafiseh Kohnavard posted images she said was the smoldering vessel after it had been hit.

Those areas of water are a strategic bottleneck through which about half the world's oil supply must pass to to reach consumers.

It came amid weeks of increasing tensions between the US Navy and Iran, even as both governments have struggled domestically to contain coronavirus outbreaks in their nations.
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A regional security source told Insider that the deadly mistake was part this US-Iranian dynamic which prompted more aggressive operations.

The private security contract is based in the nearby United Arab Emirates, and asked not to be named because of their close ties to government intelligence services in the region.The source said: "The Iranians have been aggressively displaying power in the area for over a year in response to increased US pressure and rhetoric. But in the last few weeks we have seen a sharp uptick in aggressive small boat patrols and actions, increased direct radar tracking of ships as well and on Sunday, a major naval exercise."Advertisement

The source confirmed multiple April media reports that Iranian small gunboats, which provide the bulk of Iran's cheap but effective naval capability, had been increasing both patrols of international waterways as well as aggressive harassing maneuvers directed towards Western flagged vessels.

He continued: "The Iranians had been increasingly aggressive throughout April in trying to draw a response from the US Navy but things had quieted when Trump made his statement that he had ordered the Navy to fire upon any harassing Iranian ships and boats."

Sunday's exercise was intended to spotlight the long range capabilities of Iran's top domestically produced guided missile frigate, the Jamaran, which is considered the most capable in Iran's navy.Advertisement

The Jamaran was supposed to fire a sophisticated guided missile in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday at a target being towed by a support ship, according to social media posts and Telegram messages translated by the BBC and The New York Times.

But confusion over the release of the target and the timing of the missile launch sent the projectile into the support ship instead.

At least 20 sailors are reported to have been killed, another 15 wounded and some reports say another 20 could be missing, according to a statement on an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Telegram messaging channel seen by The New York Times.Advertisement

An official Iranian navy statement, translated by the BBC, said: "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."

2020 has been a disastrous year for the Iranian military, specifically the quasi-independent IRGC.

It began in early January with the drone assassination by the US of top IRGC official Qassem Suliemani outside an airport in Baghdad, Iraq.Advertisement

Two days later, fearing more American strikes, an IRGC anti-aircraft missile battery accidentally targeted and destroyed a Ukrainian airliner as it took off from Tehran's international airport, killing 176 people.

That incident roiled Iranian defense circles as the IRGC initially tried to defect blame for the airliner shootdown, before eventually admitted what had happened.Read the original article on Business Insider
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