Islamic Republic of Iran Navy Unveils Its First Drone Division in The Indian Ocean

On 15 July, elements of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (known as IRIN or NEDAJA) conducted a training exercise with various types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the Indian Ocean. The Navy’s first unmanned aerial vehicle division was also featured in the exercise, which was attended by Islamic Republic of Iran Naval Forces Commander Admiral Shahram Irani and Islamic Republic of Iran Army Commander-in-Chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi. The development occurred during US President Joe Biden’s July 13-16 visit to the Middle East, which included stops in Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia.

According to IRNA, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official news agency, the first drone division to join the southern fleet was made up of military ships and submarines that were armed with a variety of combat, reconnaissance, and suicide drones. The news agency did not provide information regarding the number of ships, submarines, or UAVs in the division, only that a variety of drones, including Pelican, Homa, Arash, Chamrosh, Jubin, Ababil-4, and Bavar-5, were among the drones in the division. However, it was stated that one ship carried as many as 50 drones.

Arash kamikaze drone launched from the Delvar class auxiliary ship of the southern fleet of the Iranian Navy / From Tasnim news agency / Copyright: (CC BY 4.0)

Three Iranian military ships could be seen configured to launch drones in the images that the Iranian media provided to the press. The Kilo-class submarine Tareq (901), which Iran ordered from Russia in 1988, is the first of these. The second is an auxiliary ship by the name of Delvar (471), and the last vessel is the landing craft Lavan (514). In the footage, it was shown that the Lavan (514) landing craft and the Delvar (471) auxiliary ship were used to launch the Arash and Ebail-2/3 kamikaze UAVs, while the Tareq (901) submarine was used to launch the Pelican-2 drone and the newly introduced Homa drone. This new drone, called Homa, is a cruise UAV capable of hybrid flight and vertical landing, according to Tasnim News, which is affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Though complete details regarding the new drone have not yet been revealed, it appears to resemble the Meraj UAVs in appearance.

The Kilo-class Tareq submarine of the Iranian Navy’s southern fleet surfaces to launch the Pelican-2 drone / From Tasnim news agency / Copyright: (CC BY 4.0)

Speaking to Iranian press after the exercise, Iranian Army Commander-in-Chief Major General Sayyed Abdolrahim Mousavi said, “We must increase our defense power due to the imperialist system’s aggression and attitude, and this defense power covers various areas. The most important of these is the matter of UAVs and drones as newly emerging areas. They have a very important and decisive role,”

Islamic Republic of Iran Army Commander-in-Chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi participated in the exercise in the Indian Ocean to see the unveiling of Iran’s first drone division / From Tasnim news agency / Copyright: (CC BY 4.0)

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Naval Forces Commander, Admiral Shahram Irani, stated that, “Upgrading the capability of combat support ships and supporting UAV fleets will add an important capacity to the naval units.” Irani claimed that enemy targets and positions can be reached from hundreds or even thousands of kilometers above using the identification and intelligence capabilities of UAVs, and said, “This is a very unique capability.”

Image of recent drone attacks by Iran and Iran-backed terrorist groups / From Israel Defense Forces

Iran produces many drones with various applications as part of its unmanned aerial vehicle program and has stated repeatedly that it is determined to integrate these UAV systems into all platforms. Iran poses a significant threat to Israel and Arab countries that are Israel’s allies by providing the systems it has developed to its allies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In this context, Israel has begun to work on the formation of the “Middle East Air Defense Alliance,” led by the United States, to counter Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle and missile threat.