April 11, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Sends Submarine to Middle East to Counter Iranian Threats to Maritime Trade

April 11, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Sends Submarine to Middle East to Counter Iranian Threats to Maritime Trade

Latest Developments

The American nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine USS Florida arrived in the Middle East and now operates under the command of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, signaling to the regime in Tehran that the United States will not tolerate Iranian activities targeting its troops and shipping, or those of its allies.

The submarine arrived in the region on Thursday and transited through the Suez Canal on Friday on its way to the Arabian Sea, where it will remain for an extended period. It’s arrival coincided with a warning from the Fifth Fleet — which patrols the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea — for all vessels in the area to proceed with caution as tensions between Israel and Iran-backed terrorist groups escalate.

Expert Analysis

“The deployment of the USS Florida to Fifth Fleet has two explicit purposes: First, it significantly raises the capacity of the United States to impose costs on Iran if Iran takes inappropriate actions. And second, the unusual public notification of the submarine’s deployment is a strong signal to Iran of our intent to hold them accountable if they don’t alter their behavior and ensure that U.S. forces and interests are not attacked in the Middle East.” — RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation and FDD Senior Fellow

Missile Submarine Adds to CENTCOM Capabilities

The USS Florida is an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine converted in 2003 from a ballistic-missile submarine. The conversion equipped the vessel with 154 Tomahawk land-attack guided cruise missiles. The missile’s range allows it to threaten targets inside Iran from various locations in the Arabian Sea. The submarine adds to the already significant military capabilities in the area under U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). 

While American submarines often travel through the area, it is less common for one to be stationed there. American submarines move around the world every day without adversaries knowing their location. That the Pentagon allowed the presence of the USS Florida to become public indicates the United States is looking to alert Iran that it is unhappy with the regime’s activities in Syria and Iraq — and can impose a high cost in response to Iran’s actions.

Response to Iranian Aggression

The U.S. show of force is in response to Iran’s belligerent activity in the region, most recently an Iranian drone attack on a U.S. military base in Syria in March that resulted in the killing of a U.S. contractor and the wounding of five American troops and another U.S. contractor. The United States responded immediately to the attack by launching airstrikes against facilities used by militias affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reportedly killing at least four IRGC-aligned militants. 

U.S. and Israeli military officials have also raised concern that Iran’s IRGC Aerospace Force was planning a drone attack on Israeli-owned ships after an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed an IRGC advisor.

Further Analysis

Iran Attacking Israel on Multiple Fronts,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Air Strikes Hit Iranian Proxies in Syria After Iranian Drone Kills U.S. Contractor,” FDD Flash Brief

Iranian Military Adviser Killed in Israeli Strike in Syria,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Global Threat Network