Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said it launched a heavy warship Thursday capable of carrying helicopters, drones and missile launchers amid ongoing tensions with the U.S.
Photographs of the ship, named after slain Guard naval commander Abdollah Roudaki, showed it carrying truck-launched surface-to-surface missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. It also carried four small fast boats, the kind the Guard routinely uses in the Persian Gulf. Sailors manned deck-mounted machine guns.
The Guard said the ship has a length of 150 meters (492 feet). By comparison, a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has a length of 332 meters (1,092 feet). The Guard's ship does not have a runway, but includes a landing pad for a helicopter.
The commander of the Guard's navy, Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri, suggested his forces wanted to move beyond the waters of the Gulf into deep-water patrolling. Typically, the Guard covers the waters of the Persian Gulf, while Iran's navy patrols the Gulf of Oman and beyond.
``Presence and assignments in the Indian Ocean is our right,'' Tangsiri said.
The ship appears to be an answer to U.S. Navy patrols in the region by its Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. U.S. aircraft carriers routinely travel through Mideast waters. Iran sees those missions, as well as Israel's expanding presence in the region, as a threat.