TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two Iranian warships set sail Tuesday for the Atlantic Ocean on their navy's first-ever mission there, state TV reported.
The voyage comes amid an ongoing push by Iran to demonstrate the ability to project power across the Middle East and beyond. The report said that the destroyer Sabalan and the logistic helicopter carrier Khark will be dispatched on a three-month voyage.
"The warships will have task of securing shipping routes as well as training new personnel," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Iran's navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying. It said the ships, carrying some 30 navy academy cadets for training along with their regular crews, left the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. It did not mention any ports of call.
Iran has regularly deployed warships to the Gulf of Aden off the eastern coast of Africa to fight piracy and protect commercial ships. The recent Iranian naval surge is also a response to U.S. naval deployment near the Islamic Republic's coasts in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy's 5th fleet is based in Bahrain — across the gulf from Iran.
It has also sent its warships to Syrian waters in recent years. In 2012, Iran said it aims to put warships in international waters off the U.S. coast within the next few years, and extend its reach as far as Antarctica.