The semi-official Iranian news agency Fars reported yesterday, 18 July, that given final approval of the plan, the Iranian Army Navy will send a detachment to the Atlantic.
Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the commander of the Iranian Army’s Navy, was quoted by Fars as saying that after a series of earlier operations in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Mediterranean, the navy is now awaiting final approval to send a fleet detachment to the Atlantic.
Last February for the first time since the Islamic revolution two Iranian warships passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. The ships were the Vickers-Mk.-5 type frigate ‘Alvand’ and the fleet replenishment ship ‘Kharg’. Earlier this month a Kilo-class Diesel submarine returned from a two month mission in the Gulf of Aden where it was protecting Iranian shipping from the Somali pirates.
Rear Admiral Sayyari did not specify what vessels are going to be dispatched to the Atlantic but the choice is not too great. Apart from the three Vickers-Mk.-5 type frigates and three Corvettes (one of them originally launched 1936), neither the Iran Army Navy nor the Navy of the Revolutionary Guards has any other seagoing warships.
According to an analysis published by the US think tank Federation of Scientists, Iran increased its naval capability as a brown water navy by adding a substantial number af small craft to its inventory and buying new anti-ship missiles. Especially the Navy of the Revolutionary Guards is getting trained in asymmetric naval warfare but this, as the RAdm Sayyari is careful to point out, is meant to threaten the passage through the Strait of Hormuz and to defend Iranian coastal waters.
In its current state the Iranian navy does not have the capability to operate a fleet on the high seas since it is not only lacking warships but also auxiliary vessels and the means to defend the air space around that fleet. The detachment of Iranian warships to the Atlantic can only be interpreted as a show of the country’s aspirations to become a regional power intended to impress the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and probably the own population as well.