On 15 March, surface ships from the Iranian, Chinese, and Russian navies came together in the Gulf of Oman to conduct a combined, four-day naval exercise.
The exercise was the third event in what is known as the ‘Maritime Security Bond’ exercise series, with the three navies having come together previously in the Gulf of Oman in 2019 and 2022.
For the 2023 iteration, the drills were designed to deepen practical co-operation between the participating navies, China’s Ministry of Defence said, in a statement.
The exercise “will help demonstrate the will and capability to jointly safeguard maritime security, actively build a community of shared future for the sea, and inject positive energy into regional peace and stability”, the statement added.
The four days of drills included harbour and at-sea phases. According to reports, the at-sea training – which took place in waters off the Iranian port of Chah Bahar – included manoeuvres, day- and night-time naval gunfire practice, air defence, air search, search and rescue, safety at sea, hijacked vessel boarding, and various other non-combat related tasks.
Iranian presence at the exercise included the Mowj-class frigates Jamaran and Sahand.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) participation was provided by the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer Nanning, which was commissioned into service in April 2021. Nanning also participated in Pakistan’s ‘Aman 23’ exercise in the Northern Arabian Sea in February.
The Russian Federation Navy was represented by the Project 22350 frigate RFS Admiral Gorshkov. The navy’s Gorshkov-class frigates are fitted with the 3M-22 Tsirkon hypersonic missile.
The Wall Street Journal noted that the ‘Maritime Security Bond’ exercise took place just after US Fifth Fleet wrapped up the multinational International Mine countermeasures Exercise (IMX) in the Gulf. The 18-day IMX drills involved more than 50 countries and international agencies.
The ‘Maritime Security Bond’ exercise took place shortly before a reported visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
by Dr. Lee Willett