Royal Navy Ship Seizes Weapons Transiting in the Gulf

UK and US worked together to detect and intercept smuggling vessel
March 2, 2023

Weapon Program: 

  • Military

Related Country: 

  • Yemen

Royal Navy ship HMS Lancaster seized weapons from a vessel travelling south from Iran whilst on a routine maritime security patrol on 23 February 2023. A United States fixed-wing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform detected a suspected smuggling vessel travelling at high speed in international waters in the Gulf of Oman during the hours of darkness.

The vessel was also tracked by HMS Lancaster’s Wildcat helicopter. The smugglers initially ignored hails from the Royal Navy and attempted to navigate to Iranian territorial waters but were apprehended before they could do so. In accordance with international law, a team of Royal Marines stopped and boarded the vessel. They discovered suspicious packages which were recovered to HMS Lancaster.

Initial inspection suggests that the packages include anti-tank guided missiles (Iranian versions of the Russian 9M133 Kornet, known in Iran as ‘Dehlavieh’), and medium-range ballistic missile components. The United Nations has been informed about the seizure and invited to conduct its own inspection of the materiel, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions 2216 and 2231.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

This seizure by HMS Lancaster and the permanent presence of the Royal Navy in the Gulf region supports our commitment to uphold international law and tackle activity that threatens peace and security around the world.

Commander Paul Irving, Commanding Officer of HMS Lancaster said:

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. The Wildcat helicopter was able to locate and stop the skiff after being cued on by a UAS operated by our American partners.

Our Royal Marine Boarding Team then intercepted the skiff and carried out a search which revealed the weapons. Royal Navy EOD specialists checked the weapons to ensure that they were safe to bring them back onboard Lancaster.

The operation is a clear demonstration of successful UK and US cooperation in maintaining maritime security, combining assets from both countries to uphold peace and stability in the region.  The UK’s maritime security operations support the collective actions of partners in the region to disrupt malign and illicit activity at sea.

This interdiction follows two seizures in the region by the Royal Navy in early 2022 of Iranian advanced conventional weapons. These seizures included components of missiles used by the Houthis to strike the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The UK recently announced that it had presented evidence from these previous seizures of Iranian violations of UNSCRs 2216 and 2231 to the United Nations. These resolutions concern weapons transfers to the Houthis and controls on Iranian proliferation of missile technology respectively.

The UK retains a permanent presence in the Middle East. After four years of continuous service in the region, HMS Montrose handed over to HMS Lancaster in late 2022. These Type 23 frigates include a Royal Marine boarding party and Wildcat helicopter. A Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship and three Mine Counter Measure Vessels are also based in the region, operating under the control of the UK Maritime Component Command.