Fact Check: Video Does NOT Depict Yemeni Unmanned Underwater Vessel Targeted By US In Red Sea On February 17, 2024

Fact Check

  • by: Rebaz Majeed
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Depict Yemeni Unmanned Underwater Vessel Targeted By US In Red Sea On February 17, 2024 Korean Made

Does a video on TikTok depict a Yemeni Unmanned Underwater Vessel (UUV) that was targeted by the U.S. Central Command in the Red Sea on February 17, 2024? No, that's not true: The video shows Combat XLUUV, an underwater vehicle produced by the South Korean company Hanwha Ocean, exhibited at the International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition (Madex) held in Busan, South Korea, from June 7 to June 9, 2023.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok by @faq1eeh.frn (archived here) on February 20, 2024, with a text overlay (translated from Arabic to English by Lead Stories staff) that read:

Yemeni submarines enter the field and what was hidden was immense

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-02-26 at 10.37.17.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 09:36:49 2024 UTC)

The video was accompanied by a narration in Arabic that said (as translated):

US Central Command announced in a statement that it had, for the first time, destroyed two submarines in the Red Sea. One operates on the surface above water and is unmanned, while the second operates underwater and is unmanned. The command stated that this marks the first instance of Sanaa using this type of submarine for ship attacks.

On February 18, 2024, the U.S. Central Command issued a press release (archived here) titled "Feb. 17 Summary of Red Sea Activities." The report said:

Between the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Sanaa time), Feb. 17, CENTCOM successfully conducted five self-defense strikes against three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, one unmanned underwater vessel (UUV), and one unmanned surface vessel (USV) in Iranian-backed Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. This is the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in Oct. 23.

The Houthis (archived here) are an Iranian-backed group in Yemen that carries out attacks (archived here) on ships in the Red Sea, claiming (archived here) to be responding to Israel's bombardment of Gaza, which followed Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7, 2023.

Lead Stories conducted a reverse image search of the photo (archived here) on Google Lens on February 26, 2024. The results led to a report (archived here) by Ocean News, published on October 10, 2023, titled "Hanwha Ocean to Develop Energy System for Unmanned Submarines." In the report, a photo of the submarine is attached; the caption reads:

A model of Hanwha Ocean's XLUUV on display at MADEX 2023.

This is what the report looked like on Ocean News at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-02-26 at 16.15.15.png

(Source: Ocean News screenshot taken on Mon Feb 26 16:15:15 2024 UTC)

A Google search (archived here) using the terms "Hanwha Ocean's XLUUV" revealed a report (archived here) by Naval News, published on June 7, 2023, titled "Hanwha Ocean Unveils Combat XLUUV." Naval News identifies the submarine, which corresponds to the one shown in the video on TikTok, as Combat XLUUV, made by Hanwha Ocean. The report said:

The Combat XLUUV design unveiled today by Hanwha Ocean (known until recently as DSME) is a big deal as it features two torpedo tubes. The only known armed XLUUV projects featuring torpedo capability are those of China and India. Even the US Navy's ORCA can't deploy torpedo (but it can lay mines). The presence of torpedoes on an unmanned submarine implies an autonomous decision to shoot them against targets ...

Hanwha Ocean (archived here) is one of the three major shipbuilders (archived here) in South Korea and is an affiliate of the Hanwha Group (archived here).

  Rebaz Majeed

Rebaz Majeed is a fact-checker at Lead Stories. He is a multilingual freelance journalist and researcher. He worked for five years as a reporter for Voice of America (VOANews) in Iraq. Currently, he is pursuing his MA in Interdisciplinary Studies of the Middle East at Free Berlin University. Rebaz brings extensive knowledge and expertise to his role at LeadStories.

Read more about or contact Rebaz Majeed

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