Royal Navy confirms at-sea seizure of smuggled Iranian missiles

MARITIME SECURITY WEEK
Photo: Royal Navy

The Royal Navy recently revealed that in early 2022, whilst on routine maritime security operations, the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose seized Iranian weapons from speedboats being operated by smugglers in international waters south of Iran.

The weapons seized included surface-to-air-missiles and engines for land attack cruise missiles, in contravention of UN Security Council resolution 2216 (2015).

The navy said this is the first time a British naval warship has interdicted a vessel carrying such sophisticated weapons from Iran.

The seizures, which occurred on January 28 and February 25, took place in the early hours of the morning.

Montrose‘s Wildcat helicopter, equipped with state of the art radar systems, was scanning for vessels smuggling illicit goods. The helicopter crew spotted small vessels moving at speed away from the Iranian coast.

During the February interdiction, the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gridley supported efforts by deploying a Seahawk helicopter to provide critical overwatch during the operation.

On both occasions, the Wildcat helicopter pursued the vessels and the crew reported back to Montrose that they could see suspicious cargo on deck.

A team of Royal Marines approached the vessels on two rigid inflatable boats before securing and searching the vessel. Dozens of packages containing advanced weaponry were discovered, confiscated, and brought back to Montrose.

The seized packages were returned to the UK for technical analysis, which revealed that the shipment contained multiple rocket engines for the Iranian-produced 351 land attack cruise missile and a batch of 358 surface-to-air missiles.

The 351 is a cruise missile with a range of 1,000 kilometress. Navy officials said it is regularly used by the Houthi militia to strike targets in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It was also the type of weapon used to attack Abu Dhabi on January 17, 2022, in an incident that killed three civilians, the navy added.

Last month, the Ministry of Defence hosted the Panel of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2140 (2014), which concerns the conflict in Yemen. The panel inspected the seized weapons and received a technical brief by the UK’s Defence Intelligence analysts.

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