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The Iranian Navy has never fulfilled its previous plans to send ships to the Atlantic and it seems unlikely that they will do so now.
This is stated by the analyst Joseph Trevithick in an article published in The War Zone of The Drive.
Trevithick points out that the Admiral of the Iranian Navy, Touraj Hasnai Moqaddam, deputy commander, declared on 4 January 2019 to the state agency IRNA about plans to send a naval flotilla, which could include his newest corvette, the Sahand, to the Atlantic Ocean and possibly Venezuela in the coming months.
However, it is not clear if Moqaddam’s comments were new, since he made practically identical comments at the commissioning ceremony for Sahand on December 1, 2018 and that we reviewed in lapatilla.com
“One of our plans in the near future is to send two or three ships with special helicopters to Venezuela in South America on a mission that could last five months,” said Deputy Commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Touraj Hassani Moqaddam, a Mehrel news agency December 1, 2018.
It seems likely that the Sahand, which bears the same name as a previous corvette that the US Navy sank during a skirmish in 1988, was among those ships. The Iranian authorities consider him not only the most advanced warship in the navy of his country, but the most capable in all of Southwest Asia. This is, at best, arguable given what is known about the characteristics of the ship compared to the larger warships in service in the region in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, writes Trevithick.
For all indications, this bragging is not credible. Iran describes the Sahand as a destroyer, although it displaces around 2,000 tons, making it a corvette by any reasonable definition.
Iran also claims that it is an entirely Iranian design, but it seems to derive from the previous Moudge class, which in turn was designed from the British-made Alvand class that the Islamic Republic inherited from the previous imperial regime. Besides Sahand, Iran has three Alvands and a single example of the Moudge class in service. A second Moudge class ship, the Damavand, sank in the Caspian Sea, where it was after running aground in December 2018.
Like previous Moudge class ships, Sahand has a heliport, but not a hangar to protect a helicopter on board the elements during sustained operations. There is nothing about the design of the ship to support claims that it has stealth characteristics.
Sahand’s armament includes Qader anti-submarine missiles, derived from the Chinese C-803, as well as Sayyad-2 ground-to-air missiles, a reverse-engineered version of the US RIM-66 standard missile. UU 1 (SM-1). They also have a 76mm main gun, a close self-protection system, torpedo tubes and several automatic guns and smaller machine guns.
That does not mean that Iran’s desire to deploy some kind of naval vessel in the Atlantic and to make a visit to Venezuela is not real or does not make sense. In December 2018, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and his associated attack group sailed in the Persian Gulf, says Trevithick
There had not been a flat US surface in that body of water since March 2018, a period of unprecedented breach after years of rotational deployments in the region to support several conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Although the ship and its air wing now support the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, whose future is now uncertain, the move also seems to be a signal to Iran.
In November 2018, the government of President Donald Trump put into effect a series of sanctions against Iran, as a result of the decision of the United States to withdraw from the multinational agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Iranian and US officials exchanged several threats and other inflammatory rhetoric throughout 2018.
US relations with Venezuela are also currently strained by the policies of its dictatorial president, Nicolás Maduro, writes Trevithick. An Iranian military visit to the country to show its support for the Maduro regime would surely incite the wrath of officials in Washington. The United States vocally criticized Russia’s deployment of Tu-160 bombers and planes and support personnel to Venezuela in December 2018.
Joseph Trevithick analyzes that Iran has long denounced the US military presence in the Persian Gulf and since 2011 has stated that it is preparing to conduct similar naval patrols near the United States. None of these pronouncements has actually led to Iranian warships operating in the Atlantic, let alone near the US or Venezuelan coasts.
Despite the assertions of Admiral Moqaddam, the Iranian Navy simply lacks the logistical capacity to project power worldwide. The Alvands have a maximum range in ideal conditions of around 4,500 miles. It is not clear how much additional range the Sahand could have , a derived design, if it had one.
Iranian officials have discussed the possibility of establishing bases in friendly countries in the Middle East, but have not yet done so. The country also lacks a true sea-going capacity, although it has deployed the Kharg , a modified tanker, to support previous deployments in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Iran insists on calling the Kharg “helicopter carrier”, but it’s not like that.
Even if the Iranian flotilla made its way to the North Atlantic through the Mediterranean Sea, there is no guarantee that it could cross the Pond. The shortest distance between West Africa and Venezuela is about 3,000 miles, which leaves little room for bad weather or other problems that could slow ships down and threaten to leave them stranded in the middle of the ocean without fuel.
A more tortuous route that takes boats to the African coast and then a much shorter distance through Brazil could be feasible, but could also run the risk of political difficulties. Brazil’s new straight-line president, Jair Bolsonaro, is seeking closer ties with the United States, has previously criticized Iran and is opposed to Venezuela’s current regime.
As such, it could deny that Iranian warships enter Brazilian ports. Any other country that does not have openly friendly relations with Iran can also be careful to let the flotilla enter.
Russia found itself in a similar situation in 2016, when Spain refused to allow the aircraft carrier Almirante Kuznetsov to enter the port to replenish fuel under heavy international pressure. The platform and its plane were heading to Syria and, subsequently, the ship had to wait for the tankers to arrive to refuel at sea before they could continue their deployment. The whole episode was extremely embarrassing for the Kremlin.
Similar logistical considerations probably forced Iran to scrap another planned naval deployment in the Atlantic in 2014. The Alvand – class Sabalan and the Kharg only seem to have arrived until the Gulf of Aden, where they realized missions of fight against the piracy, before returning to house.
As noted earlier in The War Zone writes Joseph Trevithick, Iran poses a real threat to the US naval activities. UU And commercial maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf and, in particular, in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Through its proxies, it has also been able to extend some of those capabilities at the regional level. This does not mean anything of their non-naval capabilities, including their growing arsenal of ballistic missiles, and expansive ties with militant and terrorist groups.
However, its ability to project naval power out of the Middle East is practically nonexistent at present. Even if Iran finally manages to send ships to the Atlantic after all these years, it would be such a small deployment that it would require immense effort and resources that would not reflect real military capability. Whether officials in Iran decide it’s still worth it, but the potential value of propaganda remains to be seen.
There are legitimate reasons to criticize Iran’s foreign policy and its interventions in various conflicts, especially in Syria and Yemen. But any concern about the Iranian warships heading towards the Atlantic and possibly towards the coast of Venezuela or the United States (events that seem as unlikely as ever) have been exaggerated.
Source: La Patilla