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U.S. Dhow Interdictions

February 19, 2020

This report originally published at centcom.mil.

Taken from USCENTCOM spokesman briefing on the seizures of Iranian-produced weapons, Feb. 19, 2020:

This is a presentation addressing recent dhow interdictions at-sea by USS NORMANDY and USS FORREST SHERMAN while operating in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. These interdictions fit a consistent historical pattern of vessels being used to transfer weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, and we assess that Iran is responsible for planning, organizing, and making these shipments.

The U.S. Government has repeatedly stated that these weapons transfers are in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions prohibiting the –quote– direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer –end quote–of weapons to the Houthis.

The goal here is to explain how we operationally impeded the flow of these weapons and to explain our assessment on the origin of these weapons.

The most recent interdiction of advanced weapons and weapon components occurred on February 9th, 2020, on the dhow pictured on the right.

While conducting routine maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, a team from the USS NORMANDY boarded this dhow in accordance with international law and discovered a large cache of Iranian-made weapons that we assess were intended for delivery to the Houthis in Yemen.

The boarding team seized the weapons and brought them on board USS NORMANDY for subsequent inspections. The weapons have since been made available for inspection by international partners and organizations.

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The seized materiel included 150 “Dhelavieh”, Iranian-made copies of the Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missile, and three Iranian-designed and manufactured 358 surface-to-air missiles.

The cache also included other components for unmanned maritime systems.

Finally, the cache included Iranian manufactured thermal scopes for rifles, as well as scopes from 3rd parties.

Although a detailed analysis of this shipment is ongoing, the seizure is consistent with a historical pattern of Iranian smuggling of advanced weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, including specific similarities to a recent seizure of weapons that a UN Panel has reported to be of Iranian manufacture.

Because of the similarities in the cases, I also want to highlight the seizure of additional Iranian-made weapons that occurred in late November 2019.

The weapons seized in that shipment were assessed to be intended for the Houthis in Yemen, were inspected by international partners and were mentioned in a recent UN report.

Similar to the February-Ninth interdiction, the dhow on the left was boarded on November 25th, 2019, by a team from the USS FORREST SHERMAN in the Arabian Sea, in accordance with international law.

During the boarding, a shipment of advanced Iranian weapons and Iranian weapon components was discovered.

The dhow was carrying 21 “Dhelavieh” anti-tank guided missile and five near-fully assembled Iranian designed and manufactured 358 surface-to-air missiles.

The cache also included advanced missile components for both land-attack cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles, and components for unmanned aerial systems.

The cache also included Iranian manufactured thermal scopes.

Finally the cache included approximately 13,000 blasting caps.

An extensive inspection of the weapons and weapon components determined that these weapons are of Iranian manufacture, and are consistent with known Iranian weapons—this includes components of a 351 land-attack cruise missile that matches the missiles used by Iran to attack the Aramco refineries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last September.

Several international partner nations, as well as UN inspectors, had access to inspect the weapons.

A recent UN report from January identified the weapons seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN as likely Iranian-produced weapons, including the “Dhelavieh” anti-tank guided missiles, the 351 land-attack cruise missile, and the C802 anti-ship cruise missile.

Let’s take a look at the weapons caches.

This slide provides a look at the breadth of weapons and components seized by the USS NORMANDY in February. You can see the anti­tank weapons, the surface-to-air missiles, and various electronic components for unmanned systems.

The next slide provides a look at the breadth of weapons and components seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN in November.

You can see anti-tank missiles, sections of land-attack cruise missiles, sections of an anti-ship cruise missile, surface-to-air missiles, high-explosive warheads, blasting caps, unmanned aerial system components, and various electronic devices.

A close look at the two slides immediately reveals a number of similarities between the two shipments, but let’s look some of the specifics.

Here’s a look at the missiles seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN and confirmed by the UN as likely Iranian “Dhelavieh” anti-tank guided missiles. The markings and components of these missiles are unique to Iranian systems.

The launch tube markings on the Iranian version are left-justified rather than center justified on the Russian variant.

The marking schema on the Iranian version contains five lines of data, whereas the Russian missile contains eight lines of data.

Here’s a slide showing some of the 150 missiles seized by the USS NORMANDY in February. The United States assesses these missiles are, again, the Iranian “Dhelavieh” anti-tank guided missile. You can see all the same telltale signs.

This slide shows one of the five, near-fully assembled uniquely Iranian-designed and manufactured 358 surface-to-air missiles that were a part of the shipment seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN in November.

This slide also shows some of the common components that are used in other Iranian systems.

Several components in the interdicted SAMs include the air data computer, the INS, and the vertical gyro which have all been identified on other Iranian weapons systems, to include the UAVs used in the 14 September ARAMCO attacks, and the Houthi-used “Qasef” and “Sammad” unmanned aerial systems.

Across the missiles are standard Iranian Part Number markings which were observed on other Iranian weapons displayed during the MAKS 2017 Air Show in Russia.

This slide shows the same Iranian 358 surface-to-air missiles, but these were seized by the USS NORMANDY in February.

This slide shows a number of thermal optic weapon sights, which were seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN in November and are produced by Rayan Roshd Afzar, an Iranian-based defense-industry manufacturer.

These sights are consistent with products offered by Iran and have been widely proliferated in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Some of the unique Iranian design characteristics of these sights include: ribbing on the forward objective lens, four black buttons in a straight line, and a separate red-button.

We have included a photo from the Rayan Roshd Afzar catalog in this graphic.

This slide shows the same type of thermal optic weapon sights, produced by the same Iranian-based manufacturer, which were seized by the USS NORMANDY in February.

The shipment interdicted by the USS FORREST SHERMAN in November included several unmanned-aerial system components–including engines and related parts, as well as servos used to move control surfaces and to regulate the throttle.

These components are consistent with those that have been identified on numerous “Qasef” and “Sammad” UAVs recovered in the Yemen battlespace.

It is important to note that the Houthis have used these Iranian-designed systems to conduct lethal attacks against civil, commercial, and military targets on the Arabian Peninsula.

Here are components for unmanned surface systems interdicted by the USS NORMANDY in February.

The shipment interdicted by the USS FORREST SHERMAN in November included components of the Iranian-manufactured C802 anti-ship cruise missile.

The C802 consists of individual cabins that can be disassembled for transportation, but that interconnect to form the finished missile.

The shipment included the radar homing seeker and warhead sections of the C802 that are typically labeled in English and Farsi.

This is consistent with a photo previously released by Iran of a fully assembled C802 missile at the bottom right of this slide.

Also included in the shipment were missile batteries, cabling, and related hardware.

We assess that these components were being shipped to the Houthis to be reassembled with components smuggled in other shipments.

These types of components were not a part of the cache seized by the USS NORMANDY.

The Forrest Sherman seized shipment also included several sections of an Iranian-made 351 land-attack cruise missile.

The interdicted sections of the 351 cruise missile were consistent with the engine and tail configuration of material recovered from a 351 used in the Iranian attack on ARAMCO refineries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As you can see, the pictured missile has a quality control label written in Farsi.

Also, the missile has a satellite navigation antenna with a Farsi quality control label.

These types of components were not a part of the cache seized by the USS NORMANDY.

Finally, the shipment seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN included more than 13,000 blasting caps. There were no blasting caps in the cache seized by the USS NORMANDY in February.

Assessment:

The United States assesses with high confidence that the weapons seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN in November and the weapons seized by the USS Normandy in February were manufactured in Iran and were being illicitly smuggled to the Houthis in Yemen in contravention of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions.

Some of these weapons were Iranian copies of Russian-made weapons, and some were uniquely designed by Iran and are found nowhere else in the world.

The UN has reported its conclusion that the weapons seized by the USS FORREST SHERMAN were likely manufactured by Iran.

Beyond that, I have provided visual evidence linking them to Iranian systems that are publicly available.

Additionally, while the detailed assessment of the weapons seized by the USS NORMANDY in February is ongoing, the similarity between the weapons and weapon components in each shipment is obvious.

The circumstances of seizure are similar.
Finally, the United States is confident that these weapons fit the pattern of weapons smuggling to the Houthis in Yemen, which Iran has been engaged in for at least five years.

Conclusion:

The latest two seizures add substantial support to the body of evidence that Iran continues to smuggle advanced weaponry into Yemen in contravention of UN Security Council Resolutions.
The seizure conducted by the USS FORREST SHERMAN was closely analyzed by the United States and international partners and includes numerous advanced weapons systems of unique Iranian design and manufacture. The latest seizure by the USS NORMANDY included numerous and significant similar systems and components discovered in similar circumstances. There is no doubt as to where these weapons came from or where they were going.

I would like to point out that maritime interdictions are difficult work. There is a lot of ocean to search, and the vessels we are looking for are relatively small. I would like to congratulate the crews of the USS Normandy and USS Forrest Sherman and laud the professionalism with which they accomplished these interdictions.

I would also like to point out the significance of Iranian weapons smuggling from two perspectives.

For the international community, the supply of Iranian weapons to the Houthis has often led to spillage of the Yemeni conflict beyond its borders. The Houthis have conducted or attempted attacks on civil targets in the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis have fired missiles at U.S. warships and UAVs. Several years ago, a Yemeni coast guard vessel struck a likely Houthi mine, and recently an Egyptian fishing vessel also struck a likely Houthi mine with the innocent loss of life. It is also important to understand that a possible stoppage of commercial shipping through the Bab-Al-Mandeb Strait would have a significant impact on the world economy, and it is in all of our interests to prevent such a stoppage.

Finally, for the people of Yemen, the continual supply of Iranian weapons to the Houthis has certainly prolonged the conflict, delayed a political solution and increased the suffering of the Yemeni people. I think it is important to recognize that.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reports are created independently of American Military News (AMN) and are distributed by AMN in accordance with applicable guidelines and copyright guidance. Use of CENTCOM and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) reports do not imply endorsement of AMN. AMN is a privately owned media company and has no affiliation with CENTCOM and the DOD.