The Iranian government has announced its intention to deploy a naval task force in the Atlantic Ocean in the next few months. The decision is intended as a response to American and Western belligerence in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
According to the IRNA state news agency, the naval flotilla will depart for the Atlantic sometime in March and is planned to stay in the region for at least five months.
“By their continuous presence in international waters, Iranian naval forces aim to implement the orders of commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), wave the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran, thwart the Iranophobia plots, and secure shipping routes,” said Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani.
The Iranian naval officer also stated that the task force will approach U.S. territorial waters as a show of defiance.
The new destroyer Sahand will be the flagship of the mission. The domestically built ship is capable of staying at sea without replenishment for around five months, according to Iranian news outlets. Its defensive and offensive arsenal is comprised of a series of anti-ship and anti-aircraft guns, and surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missile batteries. It can also carry a limited number of helicopters. It has a cruising speed of 25 knots (28 miles per hour).
“The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” said Rear-Admiral Hassani.
This won’t be the first time the Iranian navy has operated outside the country’s territorial waters. Recently, Iranian ships have been deployed to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in an attempt to safeguard Iranian cargo ships from pirates. Iran has repeatedly threatened to seal the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane where a fifth of the world’s oil supply sails through daily. At its narrowest point, the sea lane is about two miles wide, and thus easily closed by a committed force. The recent addition to the Iranian Navy of two shallow-water midget submarines serves as further testament to the country’s intent to be more assertive in the region. The Iranian Navy held a large exercise around the Strait this past August involving more than 100 small fast-attack craft.
Aside from the compulsory propaganda statements bound to accompany the deployment of the naval task force, the endeavor appears to be a test of the Iranian Navy’s expeditionary capabilities. Fielding a naval task force is no small feat. The logistical and administrative requirements can be overwhelming to an inexperienced navy. By sending a small flotilla, the Iranians intend to gauge both their capabilities and their adversaries’ reaction.