Iran deployed a military flotilla to international waters on Friday as it kicked off the second day of an air defense drill amid heightened tensions in the region.
The Iranian navy dispatched a “combat and training” flotilla consisting of several warships for what Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, commander of the Iranian navy, called a “heavy and multidimensional mission,” according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The flotilla departed from the southern port city of Bandar Abbas and will join four other combat flotillas currently assigned to missions in international waters.
Irani said Iran's navy continues to be active in international waters despite what he described as “hostile plots by enemies.” Speaking on Friday at the Imam Khomeini Maritime University, in Noshahr, Mazandaran province, he hailed the navy’s operations in international seas, referring specifically to the seizure of a US-linked oil tanker, which he said had violated the rules in the Sea of Oman.
The Iranian navy seized the US tanker on Jan. 11 in the Gulf of Oman and redirected it to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The White House condemned the move at the time and called for the vessel’s immediate release. Some crew members have reportedly been released, but the vessel remains docked.
On Thursday, the Iranian army and navy began joint air defense exercises in the south with the naval and aerospace units of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.
The two-day drills are being held across a 583-kilometer area, stretching from the southwestern city of Abadan to the southeastern port city of Chabahar. The offshore section of the exercise is being conducted in both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
On the first day of the drill, operational and defensive measures were carried out using Iranian-manufactured detection, interception and engagement systems against hypothetical attacking aircraft.
On Friday, the armed forces conducted drills to protect air defense systems against cyberattacks and electronic interference, the state-owned PressTV news network reported.
The participating forces for the first time used a short-range, low-altitude air defense system to shoot down assorted targets.
“The use of various air defense equipment . . . in this exercise shows the strength and capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of air defense, which has been able to defeat the arrogant powers with decisiveness . . . at different times over the past years,” PressTV quoted Brig. Gen. Abbas Farajpour, spokesperson for the drills, as saying.
The latest Iranian moves came after Pakistan launched airstrikes against hideouts of the Baluch Liberation Front and the Baluchistan Liberation Army on Iranian territory. Earlier this week, Iran had carried out precision airstrikes targeting positions belonging to Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni armed group, in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.
The cross-border strikes by the neighboring countries coincide with a spate of attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen against commercial vessels in the Red Sea in conjunction with the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.