Iranian state media have confirmed that the Islamic Republic’s navy has dispatched two vessels – a submarine and a surface ship – on a patrol mission to the Red Sea.
According to the commander of the Iranian navy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the 15th fleet, consisting of a KILO-class submarine and an unnamed surface ship, will “patrol in the high seas and display great capabilities of the Islamic Republic”. Admiral Sayyari added that the presence of Iranian warships will convey ” the message of peace and friendship to all countries.”
Another purpose of the fleet detachment is the fight against piracy.
Iran’s navy is trying to increase its presence on the high seas in recent months (see also our report from 19 July). In February two Iranian warships for the first time since the Islamic revolution passed the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean and in July a KILO-class sub returned to its base after a two-month patrol cruise in the Gulf of Aden. On 19 July we reported about the plans to send a fleet detachment into the Atlantic, it is still unknown if the plan has been approved by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khameney.
Although Iran has – under the auspices of the Revolutionary Guards – built significant capabilities to defend its coast and to block the Strait of Hormuz (more on that in our article from 5 July), the real Navy has only a handful of vessels for operations on the high seas. Considering that one of the three Iranian KILO submarines is participating in the Red Sea patrol, it is safe to assume that the other one will be the fleet tender ‘Kharg’. The ‘Kharg’ (11064 ts) is the only seagoing supply and replenishment ship of Iran’s navy, she was launched 1977 in the UK and was delivered to Iran in 1984.
Shortly after the announcement of Admiral Sayyari on the Iranian IRIB TV station, Israel sent two of its missile boats into the Red Sea. The Israel Defense Force Spokesperson’s Office said this is a “routine mission” which has nothing to do with the Iranian presence in the area.