U.S. fears Iran could use powerboat as a weapon
U.S. thinks Tehran owns feared boat
Despite the Obama administration's efforts to stop it from falling into the hands of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the Bradstone Challenger -- a high-performance powerboat built with support from a U.S. defense contractor -- is believed to be under Iranian ownership.
The unusual journey of the Bladerunner 51 powerboat began in 2005, when a team led by British adventurer Neil McGrigor took it from a Florida boatyard and smashed the Italian-held record for the fastest circumnavigation of Britain.
Advertised for sale the next year through a broker, the 51-foot craft caught the eye of the Iranians. The British government blocked their initial attempts to buy it, but defense and industry sources say Iran did not give up. After the boat had passed through at least two more parties, the United States got wind in January 2009 that it was about to be transferred in the South African port of Durban onto a Hong Kong-flagged Iranian merchant vessel, the Diplomat, bound for the Gulf.
The U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security asked South African authorities to block the transfer. It voiced concern that Iran's Revolutionary Guards intended to use the boat as a "fast attack craft." The bureau noted that similar vessels had been armed with "torpedoes, rocket launchers and anti-ship missiles."
Nonetheless, the loading went ahead because, according to one source, no one saw the U.S. notice sent by fax on a weekend. U.S. Special Forces were ready to intercept the Iranian merchant vessel but the operation was called off, the source said.
-- Financial Times
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