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Iran brags of new anti-ship missile range after 11 Iranian ships harass US warships

A test-fire of the Fateh-110, an Iranian Ballistic single-stage solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile. (Hossein Velayati/Wikimedia Commons)
April 21, 2020

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) paramilitary force announced on Monday it had dramatically expanded on the range of its anti-ship missiles, increasing its range from about 180 miles in September to around 430 miles.

Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri, the IRGC’s top Naval commander, announced the Iranian force now possesses surface-to-surface and subsurface anti-ship missiles capable of flying over 700 kilometers (430 miles), the Associated Press reported.

The announcement is in line with a pattern of Iranian military leaders periodically announcing major developments in its weapon capabilities which cannot be independently verified. Iran’s conventional forces are believed to already possess surface-to-surface weapons reaching up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). Such weapons would be capable of launching from Iran and reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the region.

Tangsiri’s remarks also came one day after IRGC naval forces acknowledged a close encounter last week with U.S. Navy warships in the Persian Gulf. Last Wednesday 11 Iranian IRGC Navy boats swarmed around six U.S. Navy vessels.

U.S. vessels USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) were conducting joint operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache helicopters when the IRGC Navy boats approached.

The Iranian boats circled within 1o yards of USCGC Maui’s bow, and 50 yards of USS Lewis B. Puller as the U.S. vessels moved to avoid collisions. The encounter lasted around an hour, with the Iranian vessels ignoring warnings and U.S. Navy acoustic noisemakers before eventually dispersing.

The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Army have been conducting joint operations in the Arabian Gulf for several weeks.

Tensions with Iran have been building for some time following the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018. Those tensions saw pro-Iranian militia groups attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad at the end of 2019 and a U.S. strike that killed Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani near the start of 2020.

In the days following Soleimani’s death, Iran launched a retaliatory missile attack, but the tensions between the U.S. and Iran soon appeared to subside.

In March, U.S. fighters did carry out retaliatory strikes on pro-Iranian militia positions in Iraq as a response to a deadly rocket attack.

On April 1, President Donald Trump called out alleged Iranian attack plans in a tweet and warned Iran against such an attack.

“If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” Trump tweeted at the time.

Tehran also views the continued U.S. fleet presence in the Persian Gulf as a threat.