Aircraft carrier Shahid Mahdavi, operated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), has sailed into the southern hemisphere, according to Iranian state media.

Measuring 240 meters (nearly 800 ft), it was originally a merchant vessel that the Iranian military converted into a warship. The vessel is equipped with long-range missiles and air defense systems and was designed to carry drones and helicopters.

The warship’s exact location and mission have not been disclosed to the public, however, Iran’s military posturing coincides with continued threats from the Tehran-backed Houthi terror militia to target international shipping in the Red Sea region.

Bradley Bowman, a senior official specializing in military and political power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), views the location of the warship as significant.

“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,” Bowman assessed.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior FDD fellow, echoed similar sentiments, saying the Iranian regime seeks to expand its naval military 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,” he explained.

In March, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant blasted the Iranian regime’s expansion of its naval terror activities, in what he described as “floating terror bases.”

“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 warned.

On April 13, Iranian IRGC naval forces illegally seized the Israel-affiliated Portuguese-flagged vessel, ‘MCS Aries’, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Daniel Hagari blasted the hostile act by Iranian forces.

“Iran will bear consequences for choosing to escalate this situation any further,” Hagari warned at the time.

The Houthi militia has continued its attacks on commercial vessels in the strategically important Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Hamas terrorist organization and Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  While Washington has led military strikes on Houthi targets, the terror group remains a potent threat to regional and international stability.

In March, senior Houthi official Abdul Sattar Al-Nehemi threatened the United States and Israel with “more surprises.” Trained and equipped by Tehran, the Houthis have deployed killer drones and missiles in their recent attacks. In addition, Houthi terrorists have hijacked several vessels.

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