This triumph which opens a new page in Iran’s naval history was so significant that Iran’s Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces Sayyed Ali Khamenei in a message hailed the sailors and their job fulfillment.
“I extend my congratulations to the brave men of the 86th flotilla of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy on their grand and successful naval mission. Dear ones, welcome back home, and may you be successful,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in his message on Saturday.
The Leader congratulated this great success as he has repeatedly stressed the need for the country to develop its naval power to protect territorial waters. In 2009, he said: “The Navy today is of strategic importance in many parts of the world and so is in our country. It should be looked at as a strategic force.”
What sea routes did the 86th flotilla sail in?
The 86th flotilla, with operational name of 360, consists of a purely-Iranian Dena destroyer and Makran logistics and base ship, and during its mission, it sailed through four oceans, four continents, and five strategic straits and docked back in its base in port city of Bandar Abbas after sailing 63,000 kilometers within 232 days.
As its first destination, the flotilla anchored in the port of Mumbai, India, and was received by the Indian military authorities in this port, and after a three-day stop, it crossed the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca, traveling 8900 kilometers, and in November, it arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia and was again welcomed by the officials of that country and stayed in this port for 5 days. After that, it made a continuous and non-stop voyage from Jakarta to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which was unique in its kind. The important thing about this voyage was traveling more than 41,000 kilometers in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and passing through the Makassar Strait, the Celebes Sea, International Date Line, the coast of Chile and the Strait of Magellan in the South America and the closest area to the South Pole. The voyage made a test of the steel hull of the Iranian ship Dana as one of the main candidates for Antarctic deployment program. Finally, the flotilla passed the coasts of Uruguay and Argentina on February 26 and on the 120th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and Brazil, it docked in the port of Rio de Janeiro, and then crossed the Atlantic Ocean for a distance of 48,000 kilometers on March 31 to be welcomed by the South African officials in the port of Cape Town. Continuing its journey, the flotilla passed through the Strait of Mozambique, Tanzania and Somalia waters, and the Socotra Island of Yemen, and after traveling 57,000 kilometers, it docked in Oman’s Port of Salalah.
Setting new record by accessing the far seas
Iran is one of the countries that over its history has aspired to build a powerful navy due to its long coasts and proximity to high seas, and on the other hand, its location in the geostrategic region of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. In the modern era, not only the importance of this issue has not decreased, but also because of the conflict and confrontation with the military presence of trans-regional-regional powers, the threats to national security, and the increasing importance of having naval power in strengthening foreign trade and defining offshore interests in the high seas its significance grow bigger.
Meanwhile, one of its main missions was bolstering maritime diplomacy and paving the way for defense cooperation with other countries in boost to regional peace and stability. Rear Admiral Ghader Vazifeh, the commander of 1st Naval Region of Iran’s Navy, said “the defense diplomacy of our country is based on stable peace and non-submission and domination, and the navy seeks to realize this diplomacy, which causes deterrence and stable peace by being present in international waters.”
Maintaining that this flotilla has so far had 233 sailing missions, Rear Admiral Vazifeh added: “This mission was meant to meet the instructions of the Supreme Leader for developing a strategic navy and the need to establish naval presence in the international seas to showcase Islamic Republic of Iran’s honor and power.”
Referring to the fact that in the naval history of the country this was the first time the navy ships carry out round-the-world sail, the commander held that “success in this mission was the product of efforts of specialized and trained forces.”
Asserting that Dena destroyer is purely Iranian that sailed for 8 months nonstop and without reliance on other’s forces, the commander noted that Makran base ship also played a supporting role in this flotilla, providing all the needs and facilities of the mission. It even had a hospital with specialist staff and a blood bank on board, and they had a successful appendix surgery during the journey, according to the naval official.
“The most important element of the navy is its manpower, and thank God, we have loyal, faithful, and skilled personnel,” he continued.
He further said that on the instructions of the Supreme Leader, “our country’s defense diplomacy is based on sustainable peace and non-submission and dominance. The navy is seeking to realize this diplomacy that creates deterrence and sustainable peace with presence in the international waters.”
From the comments of Rear Admiral Vazifeh, it appears that Iran’s Navy plans to send a flotilla for the first time to the South Pole in the near future.
This seems to be one of the main missions of the 86th flotilla during its long journey around the world.
South Pole is one of the world’s most strategic parts that is captivating huge attention.
52 countries are members of the Antarctic Treaty, but now only 30 countries, including the US, Russia, Chile, France, Argentina, India, Pakistan and Brazil, with 70 active research centers operate stations in this region, with Russia leading the way with 10 stations.
Establishing a permanent base in the Antarctic to increase the country’s strategic depth has been the country’s aspiration over the past years and programs have been designed to this end, but it is unclear yet in what stage these plans are.
Due to its direct access to Antarctic through Makran coasts, Iran can claim sovereignty over part of the South Pole.
Countdown to Iranian aircraft carrier
No doubt, planning for a powerful presence in the high seas and defense of maritime interests requires procurement of strategic equipment like warships and heavy logestics vessels. With its capabilities restricted by the Western sanctions over the past four decades, the Iranian Defense Industries Organization has designed and built surface and subsurface vessels and also aircraft needed by the navy. One of the biggest ambitions in the defense industry in recent years is the attempt to build an aircraft carrier. Now important news emerge about start of work on such a huge project.
Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, the commander of IRGC Navy, on May 5 told a gathering of university students at the IRGC Navy Achievements Exhibit that “in the future we will have an aircraft carrier unmatched in the world.”
“The carrier will have the capability to carry aircraft and also a number of missile-launching boats which has no equivalent in the world,” he said, adding: “Martyr Mahdavi and Martyr Rodaki multi-purpose heavy ships were a successful experience of entry to this area and construction of ships to enhance long sailing capabilities.”
“You will see new generations of ships with more capabilities in the future,” he added.
Shahid Rodaki ship of the IRGC Navy with 150-meter length and over
22-meter width is like a new moving city, unveiled in December 2020. It
was followed by Makran base ship. These two which were a proper
experience of ship re-purposing and optimizing, showed off to the world
Iran’s knowledge in this area.