DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The US Navy has deployed a guided missile submarine capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk missiles to the Middle East, a spokesperson said Saturday, in what appeared to be a show of force against Iran following recent . tension.
The Navy rarely acknowledges the location or deployment of the submarines. cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet based in the Gulf nation of Bahrain, declined to comment on the submarine’s mission or what prompted the deployment.
He said the nuclear-powered submarine, which is based in Kings Bay, Georgia, passed through the Suez Canal on Friday. “It is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles and is deployed to the US 5th Fleet to help ensure regional maritime security and stability,” Hawkins said.
The 5th Fleet patrols the important Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil transit passes. Its territory includes the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off the coast of Yemen and the Red Sea which extends to the Suez Canal, Egypt’s waterway connecting the Middle East to the Mediterranean Sea.
The US, UK and Israel have accused Iran of targeting oil tankers and commercial vessels in recent years, allegations Tehran denies. The US Navy has also reported a series of tense encounters at sea with Iranian forces it says are recklessly aggressive.
Last month, the US launched airstrikes against Iran-backed forces in Syria after a rocket attack killed a US contractor and injured seven other Americans in the country’s northeast.
The Tomahawk cruise missile launched from ships or submarines can reach targets up to 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles away). They were famously employed during the opening hours of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and in response to the Syrian chemical weapons attack in 2018.
US-Iran tensions have soared since then-President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 accord with world powers that provided sanctions relief in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear activities and placing them under increased monitoring.
The Biden administration’s efforts to restore the agreement were deadlocked last year. Tensions have worsened as Iran has supplied attack drones to Russian troops in Ukraine and as Israel and Iran have escalated their years-long shadow war in the Middle East.
As well as moving closer to Moscow, Tehran has been seeking better ties with China, which last month brokered a deal to restore diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia.