WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two destroyers assigned to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet have gone missing in the Persian Gulf, Commander Kevin Stephens, spokesperson for the Fifth Fleet, confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. “The USS Sterett and the USS Dewey, two guided-missile destroyers tasked with conducting maritime security operations, were last seen approximately forty miles off the coast of Qatar in the Persian Gulf,” the statement said.
Pentagon officials declined to provide additional information detailing the circumstances which led to the ships’ disappearance but a video shot by sailors aboard an Iranian naval vessel traveling in the vicinity of U.S. forces and provided to Al Jazeera, appears to show multiple “unidentifiable aircraft” materialize above the U.S. fleet moments before the two destroyers vanish.
A U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of the incident – who agreed to speak with the New York Times on condition of anonymity – confirmed the video’s authenticity and described the aircraft as “extremely large.” The official said that the aircraft did not register on the U.S. Navy’s state-of-the-art radar or early warning systems.
During an appearance on Sky News early Tuesday, the commander of the Iranian navy, rear-admiral Habibollah Sayyari, said that weapons systems on board his ships had suffered “an unknown malfunction” and were rendered inoperable during the event. The U.S. Department of Defense declined to comment on whether or not its fleet experienced similar issues.
The Obama administration has so far remained silent on the matter, choosing instead to share highlights from the First Family’s vacation to Yosemite National Park over Father’s Day weekend. Late Monday night, in a seemingly unrelated announcement, the Pentagon quietly released a statement saying the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 5 – which was involved in a dual carrier training operation in the Philippine Sea – has been redirected to the Persian Gulf.