The Iranian Navy today added a new missile-launching corvette to its fleet in the Caspian Sea, the Iranian media reported. Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami participated in the inauguration ceremony of the homegrown vessel called Separ (shield). According to Tasnim News Agency, the new ship can sail at a maximum speed of 35 knots and is equipped with surface-to-surface missile systems, naval guns and radar systems. Commander of Iran’s Caspian Fleet Rear Admiral Ahmad Reza Baqeri said anti-missile defense systems are also installed on the Peykan-class warship. Separately, the Iranian Navy’s 49th flotilla of warships docked at Bangladesh’s port city of Chittagong after participating in a regional maritime exercise in the Bay of Bengal.
Comment: In recent years, Iran has put increased emphasis on developing its naval capabilities. Sanctions relief from the lifting of nuclear-related international sanctions in January 2016 may have helped Tehran to invest more on its Navy, including on warships and submarines. The Iranian Navy first announced in April that it was manufacturing the Separ warship and a submarine named Fateh.
Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on the country’s military leaders to expand the country’s naval capabilities. In a meeting with senior Navy commanders in Tehran, Khamenei said the Navy should boost its assets and capabilities both in terms of military gear and combat power. The Supreme Leader particularly emphasized the need to expand the Navy’s operations in “critical regions” such as the coast of Makran, the Sea of Oman, and urged the Navy to maintain presence in international waters.
The Iranian naval expansion efforts comes amid increasing concern raised by the United States and regional countries about Iran’s “irresponsible” naval activities in the Gulf region. The Saudi-led coalition says Iran sends weapons shipments to the Houthi rebel movements. And last November, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, triggered alarm in the region after he said Iran sought to set up naval bases in Yemen and Syria.
U.S. naval officials also repeatedly complain about Iran’s hostile maritime actions that disrupt international navigation in the Persian Gulf. They have also warned that Iran’s provocative naval maneuvers increase the chance of miscalculation and unintended confrontation in the Gulf region.