Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Where is Iran's Navy Headed?

With Iran feeling the brunt of yet another round of sanctions signed by U.S. President Donald Trump, Iran's response is rather unique given its responses to past sanctions.

According to Fars News Agency,  Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari declared a new strategy to protest against what Iran perceives as a program of illegal sanctioning.  Here is a quote from the article:

"TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari declared plans to dispatch a flotilla of warships to the waters West of the Atlantic Ocean in the near future.

"No military official in the world thought that we can go round Africa to the Atlantic Ocean through the Suez Canal but we did it as we had declared that we would go to the Atlantic and its Western waters," Rear Admiral Sayyari said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran on Sunday.

He said US officials appeared on the CNN and used the world map to show how far is the trajectory of such a mission and explain in military terms that it would be impossible for Iran to traverse through waters from its Southern port city of Bandar Abbas to the Atlantic. "But we moved into the Atlantic and will go to its Western waters in the near future".

"Then it would be us to show the trajectory of our sail on the map to prove to them that we have managed to do so and that we, no doubt, will do whatever we say and are afraid of now power," Rear Admiral Sayyari said in sarcastic remarks.

In relevant remarks in April, Rear Admiral Sayyari announced the country's plans to expand naval presence in international waters, and underlined the Iranian warships' redeployment in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Redeployment in the Atlantic Ocean, intelligence superiority, development of communications, progress in the development of Makran coasts and building new vessels are among the Navy's plans in the current (Iranian) year (started on March 21)," he said.

He also referred to the Iranian Navy's powerful presence in the high seas, and said, "3,900 ships have been escorted by the Navy's fleets of warships sent to the free waters."

The Iranian Navy deployed a flotilla of warships in the Atlantic Ocean in November.

"For the first time, the 44th flotilla comprised of Alvand and Bushehr destroyers could sail around the African continent and enter the Atlantic Ocean," Admiral Sayyari told reporters in Tehran at the time." (my bold)

In recent years, Iran has been increasing its naval presence in international waters to protect naval routes and provide security for merchant vessels and tankers as part of the international efforts to combat piracy, particularly in the Gulf of Aden.  On February 22, 2011, Iranian warships sailed through the Suez Canal for the first time since 1979, a move that caused consternation in Israel.

Iran's first deployment to the Atlantic Ocean took place in January 2014 at which time a flotilla consisting of the Khark (aka Kharg) helicopter carrier and Sabalan destroyer.  Here is a photo of the Khark helicopter carrier:

Iran's navy has achieved significant progress in the development of its homegrown navy.  The Iranian Navy launched its first domestically produced 1420 ton destroyer, Jamaran, in February 2010 as shown in this photo:

In March 2015, Iran unveiled its state-of-the-art domestically produced destroyer, Damavand as shown in this photo:

The Damavand is now Iran's most powerful warship; it is equipped with advanced anti-aircraft, anti-surface and anti-subsurface missile systems and is equipped with advanced cruise missiles, sea-launched drones, torpedoes and 40 mm and 76 mm cannons.  It is capable of hitting a top speed of 30 knots and can track and target aerial, surface and subsurface targets simultaneously.   

According to the Iran Project, in November 2016, the Navy's 44th flotilla of warships sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, the southern most point in Africa and into the southern Atlantic Ocean.  The flotilla included a Bushehr logistical warship and Alvand destroyer/frigate.  Here is some additional information on the Alvand class:

At the time of the deployment and as it has in the past, the Iranian Navy made it clear that their presence in international waters was aimed at extending a message of peace and friendship at the same time as they were demonstrating the expanding power of their naval forces.

While it is quite obvious that the United States still has the most powerful naval forces in the world by a relatively wide margin, it is interesting to see that Iran has made significant strides in the development of its homegrown naval equipment, sanctions be damned.  At the very least, Iran's navy could prove to be the thorn in the paw of the lion.  At the very least, it will be fascinating to watch Washington's response to the presence of Iranian naval vessels in international waters off the east coast of the United States.   

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