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Ryan Robertson

Investigative Reporter/Anchor

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International

Iran moves warship into Red Sea after US weekend attacks on Houthi boats

Jan 2

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Ryan Robertson

Investigative Reporter/Anchor

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One of the most powerful ships in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s navy is now in the Red Sea. The 51-year-old warship, Alborz, entered the area after the U.S. Navy sunk some boats operated by Iranian-backed Houthi militants.

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The Houthis are attacking ships in the Red Sea to show solidarity with Hamas terrorists in Gaza. The militants are trying to make use of the Suez Canal — a shortcut for goods being shipped from the Middle East and Asia to Europe and the Mediterranean. Around 12% of global trade transits the Red Sea.

Over New Year’s weekend, Houthis used speed boats and missiles to attack a contained vessel operated by the Danish shipping company Maersk. The U.S. Navy deployed helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and the USS Gravely, ultimately stopping the attackers.

The helicopters were most likely MH-60 Seahawks — a Navy version of a Black Hawk helicopter. Seahawks are armed with machine guns for the crew. The helicopters can also be fitted with a Gatling gun, laser-guided rockets and Hellfire missiles to counter surface threats.

The Houthis used four fast boats to attack the Maersk ship, similar to previous attacks. Three of the boats were sunk and 10 Houthis were killed. The fourth fast boat retreated once the Seahawks started hunting.

It is unclear when the Alborz entered the Red Sea. Unconfirmed reports on social media say the ship showed up on Saturday, Dec. 30.

Iran is also being tight-lipped on the ship’s exact mission, however, state-run media in Iran reports the Alborz started operating in open waters in 2009 to secure shipping routes and combat piracy.

The Alborz is a frigate and was originally a British boat before being donated to pre-revolution Iran. The 310-foot vessel is armed with machine guns, canons, mortars, torpedos, anti-ship missiles and other anti-aircraft weaponry.

While the warship’s appearance in the Red Sea marks an escalation of the tensions in the region, the Alborz doesn’t present much of a threat to the U.S. Navy. When the two nations’ navies faced off in the 1980s during Operation Praying Mantis, the Alborz barely made an appearance and Iran’s fleet proved no match for the U.S.

Almost 40 years later, the U.S. Navy has made several advancements whereas Iran is still sailing the Alborz.

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[RYAN ROBERTSON]

ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL SHIPS IN THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN NAVY IS NOW IN THE RED SEA.THE 51-YEAR-OLD VESSEL, CALLED THE ALBORZ, ENTERED THE AREA AFTER THE US NAVY SUNK SOME BOATS OPERATED BY IRANIAN-BACKED HOUTHI MILITANTS. 

TO SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH HAMAS TERRORISTS IN GAZA, THE HOUTHIS ARE ATTACKING SHIPS IN THE RED SEA TRYING TO MAKE USE OF THE SUEZ CANAL. IT’S A SHORTCUT FOR GOODS BEING SHIPPED FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA TO EUROPE AND THE MEDITERRANEAN. AROUND 12% OF GLOBAL TRADE TRANSITS THE RED SEA. 

OVER THE NEW YEARS WEEKEND, HOUTHIS USED SPEED BOATS AND MISSILES TO ATTACK A CONTAINER VESSEL OPERATED BY MAERSK. THE NAVY DEPLOYED HELICOPTERS FROM THE USS EISENHOWER AND USS GRAVELY TO STOP THE ATTACKERS, WHICH THEY DID. 

THE HELICOPTERS USED WERE MOST LIKELY MH-60 SEAHAWKS…A NAVY VERSION OF A BLACKHAWK HELICOPTER. SEA HAWKS ARE ARMED WITH MACHINE GUNS THE CREW CAN USE. THEY CAN ALSO BE FITTED WITH A GATLING GUN,  LASER-GUIDED ROCKETS AND HELL-FIRE MISSILES. THE NAVY WANTED TO ENSURE SEAHAWKS WERE READY TO COUNTER SURFACE THREATS, AND IT APPEARS THEY ARE. 

THE HOUTHIS USED FOUR FAST BOATS TO ATTACK THE MAERSK SHIP, SIMILAR TO PREVIOUS ATTACKS. THREE OF THOSE BOATS WERE SUNK AND 10 HOUTHIS KILLED. THE FOURTH FAST BOAT RETREATED ONCE THE SEAHAWKS STARTED HUNTING. 

IT’S NOT CLEAR WHEN THE ALBORZ ENTERED THE RED SEA. THERE ARE UNCONFIRMED REPORTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA THE SHIP SHOWED UP SATURDAY. IRAN IS ALSO BEING TIGHT-LIPPED ON THE SHIP’S EXACT MISSION…BUT STATE-RUN MEDIA IN IRAN REPORTS THE ALBORZ STARTED OPERATING IN OPEN WATERS IN 2009 TO SECURE SHIPPING ROUTES AND COMBAT PIRACY, WHICH IS A BIT IRONIC, SINCE THE SHIP IS NOW BEING USED TO ESSENTIALLY DEFEND PIRACY.  

THE ALBORZ IS A FRIGATE, AND WAS ORIGINALLY A BRITISH BOAT BEFORE BEING DONATED TO PRE-REVOLUTION IRAN. THE 310-FOOT VESSEL IS ARMED WITH MACHINE GUNS, A COUPLE CANONS, MORTARS, TORPEDOS, ANTI-SHIP MISSILES AND OTHER ANTI-AIRCRAFT WEAPONRY.

AND WHILE ITS APPEARANCE IN THE RED SEA CERTAINLY MARKS AN ESCALATION OF THE TENSIONS IN THE REGION, THE ALBORZ DOESN’T PRESENT MUCH OF A THREAT TO THE US NAVY. WHEN THE TWO NATION’S NAVIES FACED OFF IN THE 1980S DURING OPERATION PRAYING MANTIS, THE ALBORZ BARELY MADE AN APPEARANCE, AND  IRAN’S FLEET PROVED NO MATCH FOR THE US. ALMOST FORTY YEARS LATER, THE U.S. NAVY IS SIGNIFICANTLY MORE POWERFUL AND IRAN IS STILL SAILING THE ALBORZ.