Ballistic missile parts and anti-tank missiles have been seized by the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in a night-time intercept mission in the Gulf of Oman.
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The Iranian-made equipment was confiscated after a suspected smuggling vessel was stopped by the Royal Navy ship HMS Lancaster on a routine maritime security patrol south of Iran on 23 February.
The vessel was detected travelling at high speed in international waters by a United States fixed-wing intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance platform and tracked by HMS Lancaster’s Wildcat helicopter.
Boat occupants initially ignored hails from the Royal Navy and attempted to navigate to Iranian territorial waters, however, they were apprehended and boarded by a team of Royal Marines.
HMS Lancaster commanding officer, Commander Paul Irving, said initial inspection of seized suspicious packages include Iranian “Dehlavieh’” versions of the Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank and medium-range ballistic missile components.
“This boarding was a fantastic team effort, and I’m really proud of the way the whole ship’s company worked together to achieve such a brilliant result,” he said.
“The Wildcat helicopter was able to locate and stop the skiff after being cued on by a UAS operated by our American partners.
“Our Royal Marine boarding team then intercepted the skiff and carried out a search which revealed the weapons. Royal Navy EOD specialists checked the weapons to ensure that they were safe to bring them back onboard Lancaster.
“The operation is a clear demonstration of successful UK and US cooperation in maintaining maritime security, combining assets from both countries to uphold peace and stability in the region.
“The UK’s maritime security operations support the collective actions of partners in the region to disrupt malign and illicit activity at sea.”
The HMAS Lancaster has been operating in the region since late last year after taking over four years of continuous service from fellow Type 23 frigate, HMS Montrose. A Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship and three mine counter measure vessels are also based in the region under the UK Maritime Component Command.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the United Nations has been informed about the seizure and invited to conduct its own inspection of the material, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions 2216 and 2231.
“This seizure by HMS Lancaster and the permanent presence of the Royal Navy in the Gulf region supports our commitment to uphold international law and tackle activity that threatens peace and security around the world,” he said.
Two similar raids by the Royal Navy recovered Iranian advanced conventional weapons in early 2022. It is believed the seizures included components of missiles used by the Houthis to strike the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.