The Iran 'Fleet' Heading Toward U.S. Is No Cause For Concern

Alarming headlines aside, Iran\'s decision to send two creaking warships across the Atlantic is a purely symbolic exercise.
Posted at 4:05 PM, Feb 09, 2014

An Iranian fleet is headed to waters just off the U.S. coast to sail closer to the American mainland than ever before. But the exercise isn't nearly as threatening as it sounds.

That's mainly because the move is a purely symbolic gesture from the Iranian military. It's only sending two ships, one of them, seen here, is the destroyer Sabalan. (Via YouTube / IR Iran )

Iran says this is in protest of the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf. America's entire Fifth Fleet remains stationed off Bahrain's coast, just across the gulf from Iran. Now, Iran says its ships will remain in international waters. (Via Press TV)

The U.S. maritime border varies in distance along the eastern seaboard, typically at least 200 miles out. It's that second line with the fish in this map, so yeah, it's a decent ways out there. (Via NOAA)

Of course, the headline sounds much more alarming than all that, which is why the details in this story are so important. (Via Fox News, CNN, BBC)

Details like the actual capabilities of this Iranian fleet's two ships, which, again, are pretty non-threatening.

The destroyer Sabalan was launched in 1969 — that's 10 years before Iran's revolution. And the ship is best known stateside for being paralyzed and set on fire by an American attack in 1988. (Via Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Navy)

U.S. ships had sought payback after an Iranian mine damaged the U.S.S. Samuel Roberts. In a one-day skirmish, the Sabalan was hit with a laser-guided missile and only survived because an American vessel decided to spare it. (Via YouTube / U.S. Navy)

Military correspondent David Axe describes both Iranian ships as "entirely crappy." In Medium, he writes that the second ship is a tanker and that: "Armed with guns, she can support three helicopters, making her the closest think (sic) Iran has to an aircraft carrier."

Iran's military first announced its intentions to sail near the U.S. coast in 2011, though that plan hasn't been put to action until now.