Britain on Thursday said one of its warships on patrol in the Gulf earlier this year seized advanced weaponry being smuggled from Iran towards Yemen, contravening a UN Security Council resolution.
The ship, HMS Montrose, intercepted speedboats carrying surface-to-air-missiles and engines for land attack cruise missiles while on routine patrols on two occasions in January and February, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
The speedboats were being operated by smugglers in international waters south of Iran, in the first instance of a UK warship interdicting vessels carrying such sophisticated weapons from the country, it added.
The illicit cargo was spotted by a Wildcat helicopter equipped with sophisticated radar systems launched from the Montrose, according to the MoD.
The second operation on February 25 also involved a United States Navy destroyer, the USS Gridley, which deployed a Seahawk helicopter “to provide critical overwatch”, the ministry said.
The seizures were spearheaded by British Royal Marines, who approached the speedboats on two inflatable vessels and secured and searched them, it added.
The dozens of packages containing the advanced weaponry were discovered and confiscated to the Montrose, before being take to Britain for technical analysis.
That found they contained rocket engines for Iranian-produced land attack cruise missile and surface-to-air missiles, the MoD said.
The type of cruise missiles seized are regularly used by Houthi rebels in Yemen to strike targets in Saudi Arabia, it noted, and were fired into Abu Dhabi in January, killing three civilians.
The MoD added the shipment contravened United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, adopted in 2015 to prevent support for the Houthis.
“The UK will continue to work in support of an enduring peace in Yemen and is committed to international maritime security so that commercial shipping can transit safely without threat of disruption,” armed forces minister James Heappey added in a statement.