Last updated: 19 July, 2011

Iran may deploy warships in Atlantic

The Iranian navy plans on deploying warships to the Atlantic Ocean as part of a programme to ply international waters, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari said in statements published Tuesday.

But the commander of the navy, quoted by Kayhan newspaper, said he was waiting for “final approval” before launching the operation.

“In case of final approval (of the project) a fleet of the navy will be sent to the Atlantic (Ocean),” Sayari was quoted as saying without giving details about the fleet or where in the Atlantic Ocean it would be deployed.

“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,” Sayari said.

According to Sayari navy ships assigned to long-distance missions will be equipped with Noor cruise missiles.

“Ships going on missions are equipped with surface-to-surface Noor missiles,” which have a range of 200 kilometres (125 miles) he said.

In February Iran moved two warships into the Mediterranean Sea, crossing the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, triggering anger in Israel which branded the move “political provocation” and put its navy on alert.

The two ships docked in Syria on February 24, marking Iran’s first such mission since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Analysts said the Islamic republic was trying to project its clout in the region at a time when anti-government protests sweeping the Arab world from Casablanca to Cairo are shifting the regional balance of power.

In recent years Iranian warships have also patrolled Iranian ships and those of other nations as they made their way across the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

Iranian submarines of class “kilo” escorted warships to the Red Sea “to collect data” in June, in their first mission in distant waters.

Iranian maritime forces are composed mainly of small units equipped with missiles and are operating under the control of the Revolutionary Guards in the Gulf.

The ocean-going fleet is also small and under the command of the Iranian navy which comprises a half-dozen small frigates and destroyers from 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes, and three submarines of 3,000 tonnes of class “Kilo” purchased from Russia in the 1990s.