A British navy frigate aided by a U.S. Navy surveillance plane seized anti-tank missiles and other weapons aboard a vessel in the Gulf of Oman, officials from both countries said Thursday.
Iranian versions of Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles and medium-range ballistic missile components were captured late last month, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet said in a statement.
The vessel was tracked traveling south at high speed in the dark by a Navy drone and a British helicopter on Feb. 23, according to the British Defense Ministry as cited by Reuters.
HMS Lancaster intercepted the vessel, which originated from Iran and was traveling along a route historically used for trafficking illegal weapons to Yemen, the U.S. statement said.
The frigate hailed the vessel, which then headed for Iranian territorial waters. It was stopped while still in international waters by a team of Royal Marines, who boarded the vessel, the British Defense Ministry said.
U.S. officials say Iran is providing training, weapons and money to Shiite Houthi rebels in their nearly nine-year war against Yemen’s Sunni-majority government.
“This is the seventh illegal weapon or drug interdiction in the last three months and yet another example of Iran’s increasing malign maritime activity across the region,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT/5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said in a statement.
Those busts have included more than 5,000 weapons, about 1.5 million rounds of ammunition and 30 anti-tank guided missiles, the U.S. Navy said.
The interdictions also have netted $80 million in illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine and hashish.
The U.S. has increasingly worked with allies on limiting the flow of weapons, as well as drugs meant to help fund Iranian proxy groups in the region.
For example, Navy eyes in the sky helped French special operations forces in January seize 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition and 23 anti-tank guided missiles, also apparently bound for Yemen.
Last year, the destroyer USS Gridley, an English frigate and combined aerial intelligence led to the maritime seizure of surface-to-air missiles and land-attack, cruise-missile engines, the Navy said.