Iran aims to strengthen its maritime capabilities so that foreign navies do not need to provide security in the region, the country’s defence minister has said. His comments come as Iran records more successes against pirates and continues to expand its naval reach.
“Based on the doctrine to expand security in international waters, Iran strengthens its naval forces so it can, with the help of regional countries, move towards indigenous regional security,” Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said on Monday.
“The message our …naval forces are sending other countries is that there is no need for the presence of foreign currents to provide security in this region,” Vahidi added.
Iran’s navy has flexed its muscles this year by embarking on a number of significant deployments. In early June, the Iranian Navy Kilo class submarine Younus returned home after spending 68 days at sea with the 14th fleet sailing in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
Iran’s Fars News Agency (FNA) reported Navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying that his forces plan to increase the time to 90 days.
In June Iran announced it was launching indigenous diesel-powered submarines. Iranian Navy deputy commander Rear Admiral Seyed Mahmoud Moussavi said that, “The new submarines, built by the committed Iranian experts, will join the naval combat fleet,” and would undergo sea trials to test their capabilities.
Moussavi added that Iran was willing to conduct naval exercises with neighbouring countries.
The Iranian Navy achieved a major milestone in February when the supply ship Kharg and frigate Alvand passed through the Suez Canal and docked in Syria on February 24. It marked the first time Iranian warships had travelled through the canal since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The event caused great concern in Israel, which described the move as ‘political provocation’ and put its navy on alert.
In statements published on July 19, Sayyari said that the Iranian navy is planning to deploy warships into the Atlantic Ocean as part of a programme to sail international waters. However, Sayyari said he was waiting for final approval before launching the endeavour, AFP reports.
“The presence [of ships and submarines] in the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean and international waters is still on the agenda of the navy,” Sayyari said.
“Ships going on missions are equipped with surface-to-surface Noor missiles,” which have a range of 125 miles (200 kilometers), Sayari said.
Meanwhile, Iran continues to conduct anti-piracy patrols in the region. Iranian naval ships have escorted nearly a thousand Iranian commercial ships and oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden and have had 30 major clashes with the pirates over the past two years, according to Sayyari. He said that all ships Iran has escorted have passed safely through waters in the region. In line with international efforts against piracy, Iran’s Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to safeguard maritime trade and in particular ships and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran.
Most recently, the Iranian Navy thwarted attempts by Somali pirates to hijack the Hadis cargo vessel on Monday. The ship was sailing from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden when it was attacked four times by pirates before being assisted by Iran’s 15th fleet.
A few days prior, the Iranian oil tanker Hoda came under attack from pirates in the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, but the pirates were chased away when the Iranian Navy arrived on the scene.
At the moment Iran’s navy is relatively small, as it has been designed for securing ports and coastal regions. The ocean going fleet comprises a half-dozen small frigates and destroyers from 1,500 to 2,000 tons, and three submarines of the 3,000 ton Kilo class, purchased from Russia in the 1990s. However, Iran is working on building indigenous ships, including frigates, and small submarines. It is also working on missile technology, notably in collaboration with China.