US Deploys Guided-Missile Sub To Gulf Region Amid Iran Tensions, Heightened Russia Presence
Amid ongoing fears that Iranian forces could target foreign oil tankers and commercial ships in the Persian Gulf area, the US Navy has sent a guided-missile submarine armed with Tomahawk missiles to waters near the Middle East, a Pentagon spokesman said Saturday.
The nuclear-powered submarine which is currently en route is based out of Kings Bay, Georgia. The US Navy acknowledged that it passed through the Suez Canal this week, with 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins describing that "It is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and is deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure regional maritime security and stability."
It remains rare that the US Navy would publicly disclose the location or deployment of submarines wherever they are globally. Likely the submarine could patrol the vital Strait of Hormuz waterway, frequented by international oil tankers, which also has a heavy IRGC Navy presence given some of it comprises Iranian territorial waters near the coast.
The Associated Press notes that "The U.S. Navy has also reported a series of tense encounters at sea with Iranian forces that it said were being recklessly aggressive."
But this new submarine deployment could also be part of US muscle-flexing as both Russia and China have been increasing their naval presence in the gulf.
Just last month, Russia, China and Iran held multiple days of joint drills in the Gulf of Oman, dubbed "Security Belt 2023". Additionally, this past week saw a Russian warship dock at a Saudi Arabian port for the first time in a decade.
"Russian combat ship entered Saudi Arabian port for the first time in 10 years," - Russian MoD— Trollstoy (@Trollstoy88) April 5, 2023
The Russian frigate "Admiral Gorshkov" of the Northern Fleet armed with hypersonic weapons entered at the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. pic.twitter.com/04gTUc1le7
All of this is also happening against the backdrop of the recent China-brokered détente and normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which the US administration has admitted caught the White House off guard.