Islamic Republic of Iran Navy ships Sabalan (73) and Kharg (431) of the 24th Fleet task force left the Chinese port city of Zhangjiagang on 07MAR13, heading for the Strait of Malacca, soon to dock at the Port of Colombo in Sri Lanka.
“The 24th fleet of the Army docked in China’s port and conducted training exercises and is leaving Zhangjiagang port today,” Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said.
According to Iran’s PressTV, the Iranian Navy docked in Zhangjiagang port on 04MAR13 after sailing 13,000 kilometers in 40 days. The visit of the Iranian naval fleet takes place at the official invitation of the Chinese navy. More than 200 students of Imam Khomeini Naval University accompanied the Navy’s 24th fleet, according to reports from the FNA.
The Iranian commander went on to say that the “presence in the Pacific Ocean is a prelude to [Iran’s] presence in the Atlantic Ocean”, suggesting that Iran will soon have a greater presence in international waters. (Iran’s recent announcement to open a base in Pasabandar near its Southeastern border with Pakistan further reinforces this narrative.)
According to satellite imagery, the two ships, the Sabalan (73) frigate and the Kharg (431) replenishment ship, have their homeport at Bander-Abbas, HQ of Iran’s 1st Naval Zone.
Most recent notable deployments for IRIN Kharg include a visit to Port Sudan on 30NOV12, after Khartoum accused Israel of the October 23 strike against the Yarmouk compound. (Subsequent media speculation suggested Iranian weapons were stored or manufactured at the factory in Khartoum.)
Earlier in February 2012, the Kharg accompanied a Bayandar corvette, the Shahid Naghdi (82), part of Iran’s 18th Task Force through the Suez reportedly on the way to Syria.
As far as the Sabalan (73), its recent participation in Iran’s Veylayat-91 naval war games in late December 2012 and early January 2013 did not go unnoticed. Neither did its repair (or possible overhaul) at the ISOICO facility in late November 2010, according to imagery analysis.