Iranian Navy fleet shows off power in Saint Petersburg

July 25, 2021 - 21:48

TEHRAN — At the request of the Russian defense minister, two Iranian warships have participated in the Russian naval parade, which began on Sunday.

Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali said on Saturday that two warships docked at Saint Petersburg.

Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi also visited Saint Petersburg at the invitation of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. He is heading an Iranian military delegation.

Jalali also said that Khanzadi plans to hold meetings with high military officials of the Russian Federation and other countries taking part in the event.

The Iranian naval destroyer Sahand and the accompanying support vessel Makran arrived in the Russian port city on Saturday to take part in the military parade.

Khanzadi said that the two Iranian ships that started sailing a few months ago have now reached the Gulf of Finland and the waters off St. Petersburg.

“During this long journey, these ships entered a strategic area of the world, which is unprecedented,” the navy chief remarked.

The Gulf of Finland stretches between Finland in the north and Estonia in the south, east of St. Petersburg, Russia, where the Neva River merges.

The appearance of Sahand and Makran in the Gulf of Finland is a “historic event,” Khanzadi said. “This success means that the gates of the North Sea and Finland are open to the fleet of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The chief of the Iranian Navy also stated that during this trip he will meet with senior Russian military and defense officials.

The two vessels left Iran’s Bandar Abbas port in May. Images from Maxar Technologies dated April 28 appear to show seven Iranian fast-attack craft (FAC) typically associated with the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) on the deck of Makran.

Iran has been navigating the European waters legally, showing off its power and importance, especially when the Americans speculated Iranian vessels cannot navigate long paths.

The Danish Defense Ministry posted photographs online on Thursday from the Royal Danish Air Force of the new domestically built Iranian destroyer Sahand and the intelligence-gathering vessel Makran passing by the Danish Island of Bornholm.

“It is expected that they are on their way to the annual naval parade in St Petersburg,” the Danish military wrote on Twitter.

The Danish military photos showed those seven vessels covered and still aboard Makran on Thursday. The fast-attack craft aboard Makran is the type that the IRGC uses in its encounters with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth, the Strait of Hormuz.

The website Politico first reported in late May, citing anonymous officials, that the ships’ last destination may be Venezuela. However, it appears the vessels instead went around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and continued north on an unusually long voyage.

Commissioned earlier this year, Makran is a former oil tanker and, with a length of 755 feet, is the largest vessel in the IRIN fleet, drawing comparisons with the U.S. Navy’s Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESB), which are 764 feet long.

Makran can accommodate helicopters, but lacks hangars, and has also been used on maneuvers with drones, FAC, and mini-submarines.

Sahand has in the past been described by Iran as a destroyer, with a displacement of 2,000 tons. It is more accurately categorized as a frigate or even a corvette. The design is a derivative of British-made warships that were supplied to the country in the 1970s, before the Iranian Revolution.

Sahand is fitted with launchers for Qader subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles, as well as Sayyad-2 surface-to-air missiles, an Iranian adaptation of the U.S. RIM-66 Standard Missile-1 (SM-1). The warship also features a 76mm main gun and torpedo tubes, as well as various automatic cannons and machine guns for close-in defense.

As well as a rare appearance in northern European waters for Makran and Sahand — and for the IRIN — the apparent upcoming visit to the Baltic Sea is a mark of the deepening military relationship between Moscow and Tehran.

In recent months, the IRIN and Russian Navy have taken part in joint maneuvers in the Caspian Sea.

With that in mind, while the imminent presence of two Iranian warships in Russian Navy celebrations in St. Petersburg is mainly ceremonial, it could also be a portent of increasing naval cooperation between the two countries in the years to come. It also proves the fact that the IRIN is now an important naval player in open seas.

This year, the fifth parade of the Russian Navy in the contemporary history of the country (30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union), is being held on the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian military fleet, the Russian defense minister said.


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