On Thursday reports began appearing of two Iranian naval vessels crossing the Baltic Sea. Politico first reported in May that these same two ships might be heading to Venezuela and the U.S. warned Iran not to send them to the Americas. It now appears the vessels instead went around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope on an unusually long voyage north.
This would be the longest known deployment by Iranian warships and first to far northern waters and Russia.
The oil-tanker-turned-warship IRINS Makran (Iran’s largest warship/sea base/support ship launched in November 2020) left Iran’s Bandar Abbas port in May. AP reported that Images from Maxar Technologies from late April appear to show seven Iranian fast-attack craft used by the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on the deck of the Makran.
We described the Makran in detail when launched. Additional images and drawings can be seen below.
Lots of misinformation about #Iran Navy ship Makran in Atlantic.
1. she’d returned to Iran.
2. Now she’s heading to Europe (or Syria?).
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) June 11, 2021
Iranian Navy forward base ship Makran (https://t.co/ebQp1dDT63) shown with two Al-Sabehat 15 SDVs (Swimmer Delivery Vehicles) aboard.
These are used by the Iranian SBS. The marines aboard are part of 1st Marine Imam Hossein Brigade (تیپ یکم تفنگداران دریایی امام حسین) pic.twitter.com/DRcHhYM44B
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) January 14, 2021
Danish military photos taken as they escorted the ships near Danish waters, showed those seven attack boats covered and still aboard the Makran on Thursday. The Iranian ship is similar to U.S. Navy expeditionary sea base (ESB) ships deployed to the Gulf. The fast-attack craft aboard the Makran are the type that the Guard uses to harass U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and narrow Strait of Hormuz.
The Iranian Frigate IRINS Sahand followed separately.
According to the US Naval Institute (USNI), the IRINS Makran “transited the Great Belt early Thursday morning entering the Baltic Sea under escort by Royal Danish Navy patrol vessels.” USNI Added:
Makran passed under the Great Belt Bridge just outside the entrance to the Baltic Sea at 6:53 a.m. local time – 2:53 a.m. EDT, according to a Thursday tweet from TankerTrackers.com. The warship was being escorted by patrol ship HDMS Diana (P250), according to AIS data from MarineTraffic.com.
Photos provided to USNI News from ship spotter @shipoholic show that Makran still has Fast Attack Craft strapped to the deck as originally reported by USNI News in June.
Frigate IRINS Sahand entered the Baltic Sea earlier via a different route, as reported by the Danish Armed Forces. Danish press reported Iranian officials notified Copenhagen the two ships would be transiting Danish waters en route to Russia.
AP also reported that the Danish military said the Iranian destroyer and a large support vessel sailing through the Baltic Sea was “likely heading to Russia for a military parade in the coming days.” AP added:
The Danish Defense Ministry posted photographs online 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.
Earlier Thursday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that the country’s navy commander, Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, will join the Russian naval parade at St. Petersburg after receiving an invitation from the Russian defense minister.
AP noted that IRNA also said the Sahand will join the parade “if the Russian-planned programs are in line with the plans of the Iranian fleet.” ADN