The British Navy has intercepted smugglers in the Gulf of Oman and recovered anti-tank weaponry and ballistic missile components. The operation took place at the end of February but was not announced until March 2.
Royal Marines from 42 Commando from HMS Lancaster intercepted the speedboat after a US drone first detected suspicious activity.
The smugglers tried to elude a Wildcat helicopter from Naval Air Squadron 815 and ignored all radio calls asking them to stop, steering their craft into Iranian territorial waters. Before they could do so, the British frigate intercepted them.
The boarding party of Royal Marines that investigated the suspected vessel discovered multiple bundles. Specialists in bomb disposal and ordnance from the Royal Navy verified the weapons’ safety and transported them aboard the Lancaster for inspection.
The loot included medium-range ballistic missile components and Iranian versions of Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles (called “Dehlavieh” in Iran). The chase was triggered when a US drone sighted the boat in the dark, moving at high speed through international waters.
The interception took place on a corridor commonly used to transport illegal guns to Yemen. Arms sales, transfers, or supplies of any kind to the Houthis in Yemen are illegal under UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and worldwide norms.
“This is the seventh case of the interception of illegal weapons or drugs in the last three months and yet another example of Iran’s increasing malign maritime activity throughout the region,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of Naval Forces Central Command. of the United States, the United States Fifth Fleet, and the Combined Marine Forces. “We will continue to work with our partners in pursuing any destabilizing activity that threatens regional maritime security and stability.”
The Lancaster’s commander, Commander Paul Irving, stated that his 200 crew were elated by their success. He added: “This approach has been a fantastic team effort, and I am truly proud of the way the entire company of the ship has collaborated to achieve such a brilliant result.”
It is the third arms cache seized by the Royal Navy in the region within 13 months. In early 2022, the sister frigate HMS Montrose, a predecessor to HMS Lancaster operating in the same waters, struck twice in one month, intercepting several rocket engines for land-attack cruise missiles and a batch of surface-to-air missiles.