Melbourne, Australia — An Australian Defence Force spokesperson confirmed Iranian reports that two of its warships had encountered a Royal Australian Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in the Indian Ocean earlier this month, but denied there was a confrontation.
“An Australian AP-3C Orion encountered an Iranian frigate during a routine Operation Gateway patrol on 10 March 2013,” said a Defence Department spokesperson.
The Iranian Navy ships were reportedly heading home after a port visit to Zhangjiagang in China and were nearing Sri Lanka when they were intercepted by the Australian aircraft.
The Iranian Fars News Agency claims Iran’s 24th fleet, which comprises the support ship Kharg and the frigate Sabalan, forced the aircraft to turn away.
“The reconnaissance plane changed its flight route immediately after receiving the warships’ warning but dropped some subsurface detection devices in their path. All the dropped devices were hunted skillfully by the timely action of the Iranian Navy forces,” it quoted Iranian Navy Lt. Cmdr. Of Operations, Adm. Siyavash Jarreh, as saying.
“Jarreh said that the Navy’s 24th Fleet of warships managed to monitor the moves of over 130 floating and flying military units during its mission in the international waters,” it reported.
The Australian Defence spokesperson said there was no confrontation but would not comment on the reported deployment of surveillance sensors.
“Communications between the Iranian warship and the AP-3C Orion were friendly and professional,” the spokesperson said.
Australian maritime surveillance Orions regularly patrol the north Indian Ocean and south China Sea.
“Operation Gateway is Australia’s enduring contribution to the preservation of regional security and stability in South East Asia,” said the spokesperson. “It helps maintain the bilateral Defence relationship between Australia and Malaysia and is part of the support to Australia’s efforts to counter people smuggling in the region.”