Iranian surface-to-air missiles were among a tranche of weapons seized from smugglers in international waters.
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The UK Ministry of Defence has revealed Royal Navy Duke Class frigate HMS Montrose seized Iranian surface-to-air missiles and engines for land attack cruise missiles from speedboats deployed by smugglers in international waters south of Iran.
The seizures, disclosed on 7 July, took place on the early hours of 28 January and 25 February 2022, helping to enforce UN Security Council resolution 2216 (2015).
As part of the Royal Navy’s operation, HMS Montrose’s Wildcat helicopter leveraged its radar capability to scan for vessels smuggling illicit goods, with the crew spotting small vessels moving at speed away from the Iranian coast.
The February seizure was supported by United States Navy destroyer USS Gridley, which deployed a Seahawk helicopter to oversee the operation.
After HMS Montrose crew were alerted of suspicious cargo aboard the speedboats, a team of Royal Marines approached the vessels on two rigid-hulled inflatable boats before securing and searching the vessel.
Crew reportedly discovered dozens of packages containing advanced weaponry, which were confiscated and brought back to HMS Montrose.
The packages were returned to the UK for technical analysis, which confirmed 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, capable of a range of 1,000 kilometres, has been deployed by the Houthis to strike targets in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and was separately used to attack Abu Dhabi on 17 January 2022, killing three civilians.
On Friday, 24 June, the Ministry of Defence hosted the Panel of Experts established as part of Security Council resolution 2140 (2014), relating to the conflict in Yemen.
The panel inspected the seized weapons and received a technical brief by the UK’s Defence Intelligence analysts.
Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said the seizures formed part of the UK’s commitment to securing the region.
“The UK is committed to upholding international law, from standing up to aggression in Europe to interdicting illegal shipments of weaponry that perpetuates instability in the Middle East,” Minister Heappey said.
“The UK will continue to work in support of an enduring peace in Yemen and is committed to international maritime security so that commercial shipping can transit safely without threat of disruption.”
Commanding Officer of HMS Montrose, Commander Claire Thompson, lauded the efforts of Royal Navy personnel.
“These interdictions demonstrate the professionalism and commitment of the Royal Navy to promoting stability in this region,” Commander Thompson said.
“I am extremely proud of my crew – the Royal Navy sailors, aircrew and Royal Marines involved in these endeavours and the significant positive impact they are having in maintaining the international rules-based order at sea.”
HMS Montrose has been deployed to the region since early 2019, tasked with supporting multinational maritime security operations and protecting the interests of the United Kingdom and its allies under the control and direction of the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC), based in Bahrain.
HMS Montrose also regularly works alongside international partners as part of the 38-nation coalition Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).
[Related: Royal Navy’s HMS Tamar visits Top End]