Iran, Russia and China on Friday began a joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean aimed at boosting security at sea, Iranian state media reported.
State TV said 11 of the country’s vessels were joined by three Russian ships, including a destroyer, and two Chinese vessels. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps also participated with smaller ships and helicopters.
The report said the manoeuvres would cover about 17,000 square kilometres in the northern part of the Indian Ocean and would include night fighting, rescue operations and firefighting drills.
Photos showed troops running drills with men in balaclavas on ship decks and helicopters hovering over smaller boats. Crew members also lined up on the bows and waved to each other.
Footage from later in the day showed a group of vessels sailing in a row, with a total of 20 ships participated in the drill.
It also showed excerpts of drills that included firing machine guns in darkness, Iranian and Russian marines rappelling down to a ship’s deck, among other activities.
This is the third joint naval drill the three countries have participated in since 2019. It coincided with a recent visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Russia that ended on Thursday.
“Improving bilateral relations between Tehran and Moscow will enhance security for the region and the international arena,” Mr Raisi said upon returning from Russia on Friday, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Tehran has sought to step up military co-operation with Beijing and Moscow amid regional tension with the US. Visits to Iran by Russian and Chinese naval representatives have also increased in recent years.
Iran has been holding regular military drills in recent months as attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers flounder.
Russia is also at loggerheads with the US and the West over its neighbour Ukraine, where it has sent about 100,000 troops that Washington, Kiev and their allies fear will be used to invade the country.
Russia on Thursday announced sweeping naval manoeuvres in multiple areas involving the bulk of its naval potential — more than 140 warships and at least 60 aircraft — that will last through February. The exercises will be in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the north-eastern Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, in addition to the joint exercise with Iran in the Indian Ocean.