TechRussia, China, and Iran conduct major naval drills in Gulf of Oman

Russia, China, and Iran conduct major naval drills in Gulf of Oman

Missile cruiser Varyag
Missile cruiser Varyag
Images source: © RIA Novosti, Vitaliy Ankov, Lic. CC-BY-SA 3.0
11:46 AM EDT, March 27, 2024

Experts view the Maritime Security Belt 2024 exercises as a clear signal from Russia and its allies to the West. These exercises, featuring 20 ships, took place in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic route for maritime trade.

The Gulf of Oman, together with the Persian Gulf, holds a pivotal role in global commerce. It is the gateway to the Suez Canal, a critical channel that handles up to 15 percent of the world's trade and 30 percent of global container traffic.
Despite a decline in traffic due to Houthi attacks, the significance of this trade route remains undiminished. Consequently, the joint maneuvers by Russia, China, and Iran in the early half of March are interpreted as a strategic message to Western powers.

Shahid Soleimani Catamaran

Most participants in these exercises were from the Islamic Republic of Iran, notably including the Shahid Soleimani missile corvette. This vessel, a new addition to the Revolutionary Guard Corps navy, features a catamaran design with apparent stealth capabilities.
Its armament reportedly consists of Ghadir-474 missiles, which, according to Iranian statements, match the capabilities of American Tomahawk missiles. Iran also claims to possess new Abu Mahdi cruise missiles with a range of approximately 621 miles, versatile enough for launch from ground systems, aircraft, and ships. However, these claims lack verification from sources outside of Iranian propaganda.

Varyag missile cruiser

Among the contributions from China and Russia to the exercises was the Russian Pacific Fleet's flagship, the Varyag cruiser, notable for its large size. This vessel, a sister ship to the Moscow which was sunk in the Black Sea, measures 610 feet in length and displaces 12,500 tons. Theoretically, it boasts formidable offensive capabilities with its 16 P-1000 Vulkan anti-ship missiles. However, having been built in the 1980s, the Varyag is considered outdated. The limitations of such vessels, highlighted by the fate of Moscow, include outdated sensors and an inability to effectively utilize or defend themselves with their armament.

The Maritime Security Belt 2024 marks another significant exercise by the trio in the past two years, demonstrating a political statement and a projection of military power. Western analysts suggest these maneuvers might also protect the Iranian ship Behshad, which operates on the Arabian Peninsula's other side.

Disguised as a cargo ship, the Behshad is reportedly an Iranian reconnaissance vessel supporting special forces and monitoring commercial shipping to inform the Houthi of potential targets. The correlation between its sea presence and the frequency of Houthi attacks supports this claim. Additionally, the ship's movements do not align with typical commercial shipping patterns, suggesting a focus on a specific surveillance area.
The Behshad ship moves in an unusual - for a commercial vessel - manner.
The Behshad ship moves in an unusual - for a commercial vessel - manner.© X, TankerTrackers
The Behshad is also suspected of being involved in arms transportation. It's observed to have frequent interactions with other ships, exchanging unidentified cargoes, which, as per US intelligence, might be a conduit for Iranian arms to extremist groups in the Middle East.
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