An admiral of Iran's Northern Navy Fleet said warships under his command have been dispatched to skirt U.S. maritime borders for the first time, in tit-for-tat move aimed at protesting the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.
Afshin Rezayee Haddad was quoted Saturday by the semi-official Fars News Agency as saying the deployment of the vessels, the number and type which he did not reveal, "has a message."
"The Iranian Army's naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa," he said.
The Associated Press says Iranian officials acknowledged last month that the fleet consisted of a destroyer and a logistic helicopter carrier.
"[Commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Adm. Habibollah] Sayyari first announced Iran would begin a naval buildup 'near maritime borders of the United States' in September 2011. The move is part of Iran's response to Washington's sizeable naval presence in the Persian Gulf."
"The US Navy's 5th fleet, which is responsible for naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean, is based in Bahrain."
"'Like the arrogant powers that are present near our maritime borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders,' Sayyari said at the time."
Globalsecurity.org lists only a few aging destroyers in the Iranian Navy, including two former Allen M. Sumner class vessels acquired from the United States during the Shah's reign, although there were reports late last year that Iran was ready to put a new domestically built 'Lavan' destroyer to sea. A replenishment ship, the Kharg, is according to Globalsecurity.org sometimes described by Iran as a helicopter carrier, and is equipped with landing pads and hanger space for two helicopters.