The Royal Navy has seized anti-tank weapons and ballistic missile components from smugglers in international waters in the Gulf of Oman.
The operation took place on February 23, but was not announced before March 2.
Royal Marines of 42 Commando from HMS Lancaster intercepted the speed boat after a US drone first detected suspicious activity.
The smugglers tried to evade a Wildcat helicopter from the 815 Naval Air Squadron and ignored every radio call demanding them to stop – instead steering their craft towards Iranian territorial waters.
They were intercepted by the British frigate before they could do so.
The Royal Marines boarding team who searched the suspect craft found a number of packages.
Royal Navy bomb disposal and ordnance specialists checked the weapons to ensure they were safe to bring them back onboard Lancaster for inspection.
The haul included Iranian versions of Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles – known in Iran as ‘Dehlavieh’ – and medium-range ballistic missile components.
The chase was sparked when an American drone spotted the skiff moving at speed through international waters in the darkness.
The interdiction occurred along a route historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to Yemen. The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis in Yemen violates UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law.
“This is the seventh illegal weapon or drug interdiction in the last three months and yet another example of Iran’s increasing malign maritime activity across the region,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “We will continue to work with our partners in pursuing any destabilizing activity that threatens regional maritime security and stability.”
Lancaster’s Commanding Officer Commander Paul Irving said his 200 crew were buzzing as a result of their success.
He added: “This boarding was a fantastic team effort, and I’m really proud of the way the whole ship’s company worked together to achieve such a brilliant result.”
It’s the third weapons cache seized by the Royal Navy in the region inside 13 months. Early in 2022, HMS Lancaster’s predecessor operating in the same waters, sister frigate HMS Montrose, struck twice inside a month, interdicting multiple rocket engines for land-attack cruise missile and a batch of surface-to-air missiles.