May 6, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iranian Warship Sails Into Southern Hemisphere

May 6, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iranian Warship Sails Into Southern Hemisphere

Latest Developments

A ship in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) crossed into the southern hemisphere, Iranian state media reported on May 4. The Shahid Mahdavi, a converted container ship, is reportedly equipped with long-range missiles and air defense systems. It was designed to also carry helicopters and fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles, but the systems that are currently on board remain unclear. The ship’s precise mission and current location are undisclosed.

Iranian authorities are portraying this first voyage by an Iranian vessel of this class across the equator as a “milestone,” Bloomberg reported. “Our ocean-going warships can be present in every location across the world, and when we can fire missiles from them, there is accordingly no safe spot for a power intending to create insecurity for us,” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami said. In February 2024, the IRGCN reportedly launched two ballistic missiles from aboard the ship.

Expert Analysis

“We have seen Iranian warships in the region before. The Shahid Mahdavi is not exactly the most impressive vessel to ever sail the high seas, but its reported presence in the southern hemisphere is a tangible symbol of Tehran’s continued determination to sow insecurity beyond the Middle East.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Since 2021, Iran has been working to turn merchant vessels into long-range strike platforms that extend the distance of its existing drone, cruise missile, and ballistic missile arsenals. The Shahid Mahdavi is at least the second such vessel to undergo such a transition and is certainly not going to be the last. Just as Tehran innovated with respect to its missile mastery to make up for a lack of manned aircraft, it is now trying to find unconventional means of projecting conventional power at sea.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

The IRGC’s ‘Floating Terror Bases’

The Shahid Mahdavi is a 240-meter-long converted merchant vessel that the IRGC unveiled in March 2023. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant revealed in May 2023 that the IRGC had been covertly converting commercial ships into launch platforms for missiles, drones, and commando raids. Gallant described the vessels as “floating terror bases,” and said that Iran’s aim was to spread its “maritime terrorism” beyond the Persian Gulf. “It is working to expand its activity to the Indian Ocean, too, and later to the Red Sea and to the Mediterranean Sea as well,” Gallant said.

IRGC Turning Commercial Ships Into ‘Floating Terror Bases,’” FDD Flash Brief

Iran claims to add two new ‘stealth’ ships to IRGC Navy,” by Seth J. Frantzman

Iran and Venezuela Deepen Their Strategic Alliance,” by Emanuele Ottolenghi

Latin America’s China Challenge: A Conversation with SOUTHCOM Commander General Laura Richardson,” FDD Event


Iran Iran Global Threat Network