Iran flexes muscle near Strait of Hormuz, readies for ‘possible invasion’

Navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said: “This is not about deterrence; it’s about attacking any target that could pose a threat for Iran”.
Friday 11/09/2020
An Iranian missile is launched during the annual military drill in the Gulf of Oman with the participation of Navy, Air and Ground forces. (AFP)
An Iranian missile is launched during the annual military drill in the Gulf of Oman with the participation of Navy, Air and Ground forces. (AFP)

TEHRAN--The Iranian navy on Friday deployed homegrown military equipment including a submarine and a cruise missile on the second day of exercises near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The submarine dubbed “the Fateh” (Persian for “Conquerer”) was seen in action for the first time and sailed up the Indian Ocean, the military said on its website.

The near 600-tonne sub is equipped with torpedoes, mines and cruise missiles, and can stay underwater at a depth of more than 200 metres (650 feet) for up to 35 days, according to Iranian media.

Unveiled last year, it is Iran’s first submarine in the semi-heavy category, filling a gap between its light Ghadir class and heavy Kilo class submarines.

Dubbed “Zolfaghar 99”, the three-day exercises are being held over waters stretching from the northern Indian Ocean to the eastern end of the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of world oil output passes.

An Iranian missile is launched during the annual military drill in the Gulf of Oman with the participation of Navy, Air and Ground forces. (AFP)
An Iranian missile is launched during the annual military drill in the Gulf of Oman with the participation of Navy, Air and Ground forces. (AFP)

The Iranian navy also test-fired a “Ghader” land-to-sea cruise missile first unveiled in 2014, saying it successfully hit its target at a distance of over 200 kilometres (124 miles).

Seeking propaganda dividends from the exercise, Iran’s military is displaying photos and videos of the new weapons on its internet platforms.

The installation of missile systems “all across the country’s southern coast has enabled us to target any threat at sea from any point,” navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said.

“This is not about deterrence; it’s about attacking any target that could pose a threat for Iran,” he added on state television.

Videos aired on state television showed the missile being fired from a mobile system installed on a truck, with Khanzadi thanking the crew afterwards.

A locally-made “Simorgh” combat drone also destroyed its targets using “smart, precision bombs” in waters more than a 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away, the navy said.

Iran’s began Thursday an annual three-day exercise near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Units from the navy, air force and ground forces are participating in a nearly 2 million-square-kilometer (772,200-square-mile) area of the Gulf of Oman.

On Wednesday, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the annual exercise dubbed Zolfaghar-99, said the operation is aimed at “improving readiness in confronting foreign threats and any possible invasion.”

Sayyari’s comments hinted at the threat of military conflict amid tensions between Iran and the US, which has sought to extend a years-long UN weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October.

Last month, US Central Command published a black-and-white video showing what appeared to be Iranian special forces fast-roping from a helicopter onto the oil tanker MT Wila, whose last position appeared to be off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates near the city of Khorfakkan. Iranian state television later acknowledged the brief seizure, referring to the operation as a routine inspection without elaborating.

In July, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from a helicopter targeting a replica of a US aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz in an exercise aimed at threatening the U.S.

In January, a US drone strike killed a top Iranian general at the Baghdad airport and Tehran responded by firing ballistic missiles at American forces in Iraq.

Iran’s navy tries to flex muscle in the Gulf of Oman on the eastern side of the strait, through which 20% of all oil shipping passes.