Intelligence Research Observatory


Methodology-OSINT research


Research & Analysis-S.A. Cavanagh & Chuck Stevens


Iranian Navy Activities Are Noticeable in the Americas & Panama Canal



Iran’s navy continues to be a noticeable entity abroad.  While not capable of surviving a battle with a professional navy, the two branches of Iran’s navy continue to work at projecting power and influence abroad.  The Makran of the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) Navy is a mothership converted from a merchant cargo vessel, recently transited the Atlantic to call at port in Brazil, January, 2023. Makran is accompanied by The Dena, an Iranian-made Mowj-class destroyer. She joined the Iranian naval fleet in 2021, Dena weighs 1,300 tons and is said to be armed with anti-ship cruise missiles, naval cannons and torpedoes. Dena and Makran comprise the Iranian navy’s 86th flotilla, one of three naval divisions currently deployed by the Islamic Republic in international waters. (Iran Wire, 2023) Brazil initially granted permission for the Makran and Dena ships to dock in Rio de Janeiro’s port from January 23 to January 30, however due to U.S. diplomatic pressure, Brazil rescheduled the call to February 26 to March 3, of 2023. (Reuters, 2023)  The Makran is used for logistics, intelligence, surveillance and special operations. Makran cleverly, retains its cargo space, and is a flagged naval vessel which means it cannot be boarded or searched by any sanctioning authority.

De Faakto Intelligence Caveat, Iran often uses misinformation to inflate the capability of its forces. 


Image of Makran Courtesy of Maritime Executive


Image Courtesy of Defense Intelligence Agency

Image of the Dena Courtesy of Iran Wire


ANALYSIS-Why is Iran Sailing to the Americas & Wanting to Traverse the Panama Canal?

Iran desperately seeks to project power into the Americas, through a presence with its trading partners in the central and south of the continent. Iran’s Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian recently flew to Latin America where he held talks with dignitaries from Nicaragua and Venezuela. This coincides with Iranian ships visiting Brazil and claims the same naval vessels will transit the Panama Canal. Concurrently Iran is working on further relations with Brazil, in what is part of Iran’s active diplomacy in America’s backyard.  (Tehran Times, 2023)  In an article published on February 4 and titled “Iran’s active diplomacy in America’s backyard,” the government newspaper Tehran Times reported that the ships were “already sailing along the coasts of Latin America” and “will establish a military presence in the Panama Canal. “Citing a 1977 international treaty establishing the canal’s neutral status, the Panama Canal Authority said on February 7 that the Iranian ships will be allowed to sail through the Panama Canal, as long as they abide by global safety norms, pay tolls and not commit any hostile acts. (Iran Wire, 2023)

Image of Iranian ShipYard-Thought to be Martyr Bagheri vessel Courtesy of

  • Some intelligence analysts believe this photo is of the Shahid Mahdavi, it has been in dry dock at the ISOICO shipyard west of Bandar Abbas since May 2022


Three New Ships 2023

Shahid Soleimani, Shahid Rouhi & Shahid Dara

Iran has launched three new ships this year. The Shahid Soleimani combat-patrol boat, capable of offensive and defensive manoeuvres; Iran claims the boat is able to evade detection through stealth technology. The double hulled catamaran has air defense missiles with a vertical launching system that can fire mid- and short-range missiles. It is used for deploying seaborne helicopters, and can unload various strike speedboats and vertical takeoff drones in the sea.  The boat is named after the slain Quds Force commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020.

Image Courtesy of The New York Post-Soleimani

Images of Shahid Soleimani combat-patrol boat Courtesy of Iran International


Two high-speed and missile-launching assault boats are named Shahid Rouhi and Shahid Dara joined the IRGC Navy’s fleet at the same time. (Caspian News, 2023)  Shahid Dara is an upgraded version of old Tondal-class missile boat (Iran International, 2023)

Images of Shahid Rouhi and Shahid Dara high-speed and missile-launching assault boats Courtesy of Iran International


More Ships on the Way in 2023

The Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri announced that two new destroyers will join the IRGC Navy by the end of the Iranian year March, 2023.

  • “The second Martyr Soleimani vessel will be built by the end of the year.”
  • The third destroyer of the IRGC Navy is under construction in the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics

Tangsiri also claims that the “Martyr Bagheri vessel”  is under construction will be completed in the future, the vessel is 240 meters long and 21 meters high, equipped with helicopters, missiles, and drones. About 60 drones can fly from the deck.  (Tehran Times, 2023)

Image Thought to be Shahid-Mahdav (110-3) Credit

Close up Image Thought to be Shahid-Mahdav (110-3) Credit

  • Note the Newly Constructed Side Deck


Baird Maritime-Trevor Hollingsbee

The former containership Perarin, now renamed Shahid Mahdavi, has been in dry dock at the ISOICO shipyard west of Bandar Abbas since May 2022. The 249-metre vessel has been taken over by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN). Recent reports have indicated that the ship is being converted into a drone aircraft carrier capable of launching and recovering large uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV). (Baird Maritime, 2023)


Covert Shores-HI Sutton Analysis of Shahid Mahdavi and Shahid Bagheri Vessels

Based on analysis of open sources I believe the first one to be the Shahid-Mahdav (110-3) although it is also being reported in Iranian social media sources as Shahid Bagheri




Open Source Notes

Shahid Bagheri-Trevor Hollingbee-Baird Maritime (2023)

Iran Building Drone Aircraft Carrier From Converted Merchant Ship-Sam Legrone-INF News (2023)

Several Vessels Join Iranian Navy amid Tensions with USA- Nigar Bayramli-Caspian News (2022)

IRGC Adds New Military Vessels To Its Navy Fleet-Staff Writers-Iran International News (2022)

Iran’s powerful Navy guarantees security- Amin Mohammadzadegan Khoyi-Tehran Times (2022)

Iran’s First Carrier Expected to be Launched 2023-HI Sutton-Covert Shores (2023)

In “Warning Sign” For US, Iranian Warships Are Reportedly Sailing Toward Panama Canal-FLORENCIA MONTARULI-Iran Wire (2023)

Iran’s active diplomacy in America’s backyard-Staff Writers-Tehran Times (2023)

Exclusive: Under U.S. pressure, Lula delays Brazil docking of Iran warships- Gabriel Stargardter and Rodrigo Viga Gaier-Reuters (2023)

IRGC Adds New Military Vessels To Its Navy Fleet-Staff Writers-Iran International (2022)