TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said it launched a heavy warship Thursday capable of carrying helicopters, drones and missile launchers amid ongoing tensions with the U.S.
Photographs of the ship, named after slain Persian Guard naval commander Abdollah Roudaki, showed it carrying truck-launched surface-to-surface missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. It also carried small fast boats, the kind the IRGC routinely uses in the Persian Gulf. Sailors manned deck-mounted machine guns.
The IRGC said the ship has a length of 150 meters. By comparison, a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has a length of 332 meters (1,092 feet). The IRGC’s ship does not have a runway, but includes a landing pad for a helicopter.
The vessel is equipped with three-dimensional phased-array radars, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, advanced communication systems for electronic warfare, and a Khordad 3 air defense system, all of which are designed and put into operation by Iranian experts.
The vessel — which resembles a floating marine city — can carry out combat, logistical and intelligence-gathering missions in the ocean aimed at establishing stable security in maritime transportation lines and providing assistance to the commercial and fishing fleets belonging to the Islamic Republic and regional countries.
The commander of the IRGC’s navy, Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri, suggested his forces wanted to move beyond the waters of the Persian Gulf into deep-water patrolling. Typically, the IRGC covers the waters of the Persian Gulf, while Iran’s navy patrols the Gulf of Oman and beyond.
"Presence and assignments in the Indian Ocean is our right,” Tangsiri said.
The ship appears to be an answer to U.S. Navy patrols in the region by its Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, the Associated Press said. U.S. aircraft carriers routinely travel through Mideast waters. Iran sees those missions, as well as the occupying regime of Israel’s expanding presence in the region, as provocative.
IRGC commander Major General Hussein Salami said the main mission of the Shahid Roudaki ocean-going warship was to ensure the security of sea routes and perform assistance, rescue and combat operations in special circumstances.
"Today we are witnessing a combat and logistic support ship join the IRGC’s Navy that can both defend itself, defend our interests at sea, and play a role in securing our country’s maritime lines near and far,” he said.
"Some may have thought that the basis of our performance is close-range warfare, but we declare that both close-range combat in far-off areas and long-range combat are on our agenda.”
The IRGC is not tied to "a specific geographical area” in defending the "vital interests” of the Islamic Republic, Gen. Salami said, in an apparent retort to Washington.
General Salami, quoted on the official IRGC website, Sepahnews, spoke after The New York Times on Monday claimed that Donald Trump had recently asked top aides about the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
But senior U.S. officials dissuaded Trump "from moving ahead with a military strike,” warning that such an attack could escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of his presidency, the Times wrote.
Salami noted Iran’s position in the energy-rich Persian Gulf, calling it a "strategic region for the world economy” in which Iran has "a privileged and unique role in ensuring the safety of the maritime expanse”.
"We are not limited to a specific geographic area to defend our security and our vital interests,” Salami said. "If some want to threaten the interests of this great nation and country, they will certainly not be safe anywhere on Earth,” he added.
He insisted Iran would not make the first move of aggression towards another country, but said that our "defense strategy is always accompanied by offensive tactics”.