Russia, China and Iran Finish Drills in Gulf of Oman

March 14, 2024 5:28 PM
Gulf of Oman Satellite Photo. NASA Photo.

Russia, China and Iran completed the at-sea phase of the Sea Security Belt 2024 exercise on Thursday near the Gulf of Oman and carried out a shore phase along with a debriefing in the Iranian city of Chabahar, with the drills scheduled to end on Friday. 

The drills formally began on Monday with the arrival of Russian and Chinese ships to Chabahar. The ships then departed on Tuesday to begin the at-sea phase of the exercise.

The exercise is the sixth iteration of one that began in 2018. This year’s iteration is the first to allow observers from other countries, namely Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Oman, India and South Africa.

Iran state news agency IRNA reported that, according to a statement from the media headquarters of the joint drills, the purpose of the exercise is to expand multilateral cooperation among the participating countries to show their ability to jointly support world peace, maritime security, and to create a maritime group in the future.

More than 20 ships are participating in the exercise, with two warships from the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, cruiser and fleet flagship RFS Varyag (011) and destroyer RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543). Both ships left their home port of Vladivostok on Jan. 22 for a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific and Middle East. Previously, both ships took part in the Indian Navy-hosted multinational naval exercise Milan 2024, held in late February.

For the drills, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) deployed the 45th China Naval Escort Task Force, – which includes destroyer CNS Urumqi (118), frigate CNS Linyi (547) and fleet oiler CNS Dongpinghu (902) – after handing over its anti-piracy duty on March 4 to the 46th Task Force. The 46th Task Force consists of destroyer CNS Jiaozuo (163), frigate CNS Xuchang (536) and fleet oiler Honghu (906).

As in previous exercises, Iran’s participation consisted of both the Iranian Navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN). Among the Iranian Navy ships taking part in the drills were frigates IRIS Alvand (71), IRIS Dena (75) and IRIS Jamaran (76), while IRGC ships include corvettes Shahid Soleimani (FS313-01) and Shahid Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (PC313-01), fast-attack craft Shahid Tavassoli (P313-4) and auxiliary ship Shahid Mahmoudi.

On Tuesday, ships from the three countries conducted tactical maneuvering drills and subsequently carried out live firing against surface targets and aerial targets simulating unmanned air vehicles, according to a Russian Ministry of Defense news release. The firing drills also included nighttime firing.

On Wednesday, the ships were divided into two task groups – one composed of Russian and Iranian ships and the other composed of Chinese and Iranian ships – to carry out a hostage rescue drill, with two Iranian ships playing the role of hijacked merchant ships.

In other developments, Japan’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) reported on Tuesday that a Chinese Y-9 electronic intelligence aircraft and two H-6 bombers flew in from the East China Sea, flying through the Miyako Strait to enter the Philippine Sea, circling over it before turning back and returning to the East China Sea through the Miyako Strait. The JSO release also stated that a suspected Chinese unmanned air vehicle was observed operating in the same area at the same time. In response, fighter aircraft from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Southwest Air District scrambled, according to the release.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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