March 7, 2013
Iranian Rear Admiral Habibolla Sayyari has announced that the 24th fleet, which he commands, is leaving the Chinese port of Zhangjiagang and will travel to the Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia.
The 24th fleet was docked in China to conduct training exercises with their Chinese counterparts. The Sabalan destroyer and Kharg helicopter carrier are two of the most attention-grabbing units with the 24th.
The Kharg is a 200 meter long helicopter hub, the largest in Iran’s home region. On this trip, it has served as a back-up aerial support carrier that aids the destroyers of the 24th fleet.
The 13,000 kilometer, 40 day international voyage is intended to extend Iran’s international naval presence. According to Sayyari, Iran’s “presence in the Pacific Ocean is a prelude to presence in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Iran has been increasing their Navy’s international travel in recent years, as they try to up their power projection in the region and across the entire globe.
Another recent aim of the Iranian Navy has been to combat the international pirate epidemic that has spread from West Africa to East Asia. Iranian vessels have concentrated on patrolling the Gulf of Aden and other more local waters, in an effort to protect Iranian merchant vessels.
However, as other powerful nations are aiding anti-piracy efforts outside of their spheres of immediate interests, Iran likely wants to follow suit. Although Iranian shipping vessels travel throughout the globe, the stop in the Strait of Malacca is likely a move to contribute to non-local anti-piracy efforts.
The Strait of Malacca is perhaps the foremost hot-spot of piracy in east Asia, which in recent years, has seen the same rise as piracy in waters east of Africa.