TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran plans to dispatch its next flotilla of warships to the high seas on April 18 or 19 to protect the country‚Äôs cargo ships and oil tankers against pirate attacks, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on Tuesday.
“The Navy‚Äôs 30th flotilla will be dispatched to the North of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, Bab el-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea on April 18 or 19,‚Äù Admiral Sayyari told FNA today.
He said the flotilla’s mission will likely be extended to South Africa depending weather and sea conditions.
Sayyari underlined that the 30th flotilla will be sent to the free waters after its predecessor, the 29th fleet, ended its mission and is on the way back home, adding that the 29th flotilla will arrive at the country’s coasts on April 28.
The Navy commander had declared on Sunday that the Iranian Navy changed the mission of its 29th flotilla of warships and called it back home before the naval group could start its voyage in the Atlantic Ocean, adding that the country now plans to send another fleet to the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Navy’s 30th flotilla of warships which will be dispatched in the future will be comprised of the Islamic Republic’s Alvand destroyer, Bushehr logistic warship and a helicopter,” he told FNA on Sunday.
His remarks came after reports said that the mission of Iran’s 29th flotilla of warships has changed and it won’t be sent to the Atlantic Ocean.
Sayyari confirmed the reports, and said, “The mission of any fleet of warships is specified and they are dispatched to the free waters on the basis of certain planning.”
“But considering the conditions of the region, it’s possible that the mission of a flotilla is changed; for instance, if the pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden are intensified, some changes will be made in the mission of the fleets of warships,” he added.
Sayyari announced that some changes were made in the 29th flotilla’s mission and it is returning to Iran, but did not disclose the cause of the change of plans.
In relevant remarks in February, Sayyari had confirmed the voyage of Iranian warships in the Atlantic Ocean, underlining that Iran is entitled to the right to send its troops to international waters.
‚ÄúAll countries, including Iran, are entitled to the right to be present in the free waters, and we don‚Äôt seek to violate any country‚Äôs territorial waters,‚Äù Sayyari told FNA in Tehran at the time, while participating in the annual rallies to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
‚ÄúThe Army‚Äôs fleet of warships is now in the Gulf of Aden and they are moving towards the Atlantic Ocean,‚Äù he added.
Senior Iranian Navy commanders announced in February that the country has sent several fleets of warships to the US maritime borders.
“The Iranian Army’s naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa,” Commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced.
The admiral, who is also the commander of the Iranian Army’s 4th Naval Zone, said, “Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message.”
In September 2012, Sayyari reiterated Iran’s plans for sailing off the US coasts to counter the US presence in its waters in the Persian Gulf.
Sayyari had earlier informed of Tehran’s plans to send its naval forces to the Atlantic to deploy along the US marine borders, and in September 2012 he said that this would happen “in the next few years”.
The plan is part of Iran’s response to Washington’s beefed up naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The US Navy’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain – across the Persian Gulf from Iran – and the US has conducted two major maritime war games in the last two years.
In September 2011, Sayyari had announced that the country planned to move vessels into the Atlantic Ocean to start a naval buildup “near maritime borders of the United States”.
“Like the arrogant powers that are present near our maritime borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders,” Sayyari said.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Sayyari gave no details of when such a deployment could happen or the number or type of vessels to be used.
Sayyari had first announced in July, 2011 that Iran was going to send “a flotilla into the Atlantic”.
The Iranian Navy has been developing its presence in international waters since 2010, regularly launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates operating in the area.