Tehran has started a six-day naval drill aimed to show "the armed forces' military capabilities" in confronting enemy threats, and also conveying the message of peace to its neighbors. The training is being conducted in key Strait of Hormuz.
The drill, dubbed Velayat 91, or Guardianship 91, also sends a message to Iran's enemies that the country takes defending its vital interests very seriously, the country’s naval commander Habibollah Sayyari said.
He added that the drill is aimed at sending the neighbors a message of friendship and peace.
“Among the aims of the drill is to display the capabilities of Iran’s Armed Forces and the Navy to defend our country’s water borders and interests in line with establishing durable security in the region and conveying the message of peace and friendship to the neighboring states,” Commander Sayyari was quoted by Iranian Press TV.
The maneuvers, involving testing warships, submarines, jet fighters and hovercrafts, are to be conducted across an area of about 1 million square kilometers in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, local IRNA news agency reported quoting the commander as saying.
Commander Sayyari added that during the maneuver the 23rd fleet of the Navy, which includes Busheher warship and Jamaran destroyer, will practice fighting piracy as part of the mission. The fleet will escort Iran’s merchant vessels and oil tankers.
Iran's state TV said that Tehran had warned ships to stay away from the site until January 3.
The drill has started earlier on Friday as a fleet of surface and subsurface vessels arrived to the location of exercises.
On the first day of the training, the destroyer Jamaran closely monitored the movements of the mock enemy and sent collected information to the headquarters of the drill, Press TV reported.
Last December, Iran conducted naval drills in an area stretching from the east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden.
The Iranian Navy is considered to be the most powerful and efficient in the Persian Gulf, having at its disposal five corvettes, 20 missile boats, 20 torpedo boats, 13 amphibious ships, 28 auxiliary ships, three submarines, 22 aircraft and 15 helicopters.
The recent drill is seen as a measure to prevent any possible attempts to block the key shipping route, that accounts for more than a third of the world's seaborne oil exports from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, the UAE and Qatar.
Such a drill is a routine practice, Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran told RT, however, he added, the timing and the place it's being carried are significant.
“I think that the place where the military operations and manoeuvres are carried out is also significant because Iranians want to remind the West that any war or battle in the region would be devastating for the oil and gas market and the world economy,” Marandi told RT.
The Strait became the focus of tensions after Tehran threatening to block the route in retaliation for international sanctions over its alleged nuclear weapons program. The US pledged to keep the strategic oil lane open.
Commander Sayyari said earlier this week that Iran has experienced a leap in the expansion of its subsurface capabilities recently.
"Iran's subsurface power has been enhanced to a remarkable degree in recent months," he said, adding that "Our surface and subsurface tactics, which used to be inspired by foreign tactics, have now become fully indigenized."
Iran has been constantly upgrading its military capabilities lately. In recent years, Iran declared it had made great achievements in the defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in essential military equipment and systems. The country produces its own tanks, self-propelled guns and multiple rocket launchers. This September, Iran's navy announced the launch of the overhauled super-heavy Tareq 901 submarine. Iran is also actively engaged in missile development. Its Shahab-3 long-range ballistic rocket has range of 5,000km – meaning it could reach Israel and all US military bases in the Persian Gulf.
The West, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), accuses Iran of developing a weapon of mass destruction. The agency demands the access to the Parchin military base southeast of Tehran, where it is believed Tehran has been tested elements of its nuclear program.
Iran denies the allegations, saying it is pursuing peaceful nuclear development, maintaining that it needs uranium as fuel for research reactors and eventually for nuclear power plants.
Marandi says that even though Iranians are preparing to respond to an attack, in general they feel that any military assault against them is “highly unlikely.”