Iran’s Navy began its first deployment to the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, according to reports in local press.
The semi-official Fars News Agency, which is seen as close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reported on Tuesday that Iran has sent a navy flotilla consisting of the Khark helicopter-carrier and Sabalan destroyer to the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday. The report said they would travel some 23,000 nautical miles over the next three months.
The Navy held a ceremony to celebrate the ships’ departure, which was attended by the commander of Iran’s Navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, as well as his deputy, Rear Admiral Seyed Mahmoud Moussavi.
Iran has long discussed deploying naval assets to the Atlantic Ocean. As far back as 2011, Sayyari had threatened to deploy warships off the Atlantic Coast of the United States.
“Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders,” Sayyari was quoted as saying at the time.
As The Diplomat previously reported, Iranian media outlets noted in August 2013 reports that Iran’s Navy “also plans to dispatch its 28th fleet to the Atlantic, Pacific or South Indian oceans in the near future.”
Iranian media have previously reported the Khark helicopter-carrier and Sabalan destroyer as making up the 27th fleet.
According to the Fars report this week, Sayyari said back in November: “The Navy’s next flotilla will be dispatched to either the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic on January 21-Feb 20.”
Fars also quoted an Iranian naval official in December as saying: “The previous flotillas of warships were sent to the Mediterranean Sea and passed the Suez Channel and even sailed through the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea. Now we intend to enter the Atlantic Ocean and this will be materialized after dispatch of the next flotillas of warships.”
In that December article, Sayyari was noted as saying that the deployments to the Atlantic Ocean would be in order to protect Iranian oil tankers and cargo ships from pirates.
Iran’s Navy has increased the range of its deployments in recent years, making port calls as far away as China and India. It has also participated extensively in the United Nations’ anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
Still, at present Iran is not able to project significant power beyond its immediate waters, where Iran’s naval assets are mostly commanded by the IRGC rather than the regular Iranian Navy, which is tasked with the longer range deployments.