TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran has sent submarines to the Red Sea in the first such deployment by the country's navy in distant waters, a semi-official news agency reported on Tuesday.
The deployment reflects Iran's efforts to show off its naval power. Iran has long sought to upgrade its air defense systems and navy to portray itself as a regional military superpower, as well as prepare for any possible future attacks against the country, saying they would most likely be air and sea-based.
The Fars news agency, which is close to Iranian military officials, said the submarines would collect data in international waters and identify warships of other countries.
The report quoted an unnamed government official as saying the submarines accompanied Iranian warships on an anti-piracy route in the Gulf of Aden before they moved into the Red Sea earlier this month. Fars gave no details on the number or capabilities of the submarines.
Iran has long had three Russian-made submarines and last year, four new small Iranian-built submarines were delivered to its navy.
The four were said to be Ghadir class submarines, which can fire missiles and torpedoes and at the same time are capable of cruising in shallow waters, such as those of the Persian Gulf off the Iranian coast.
Earlier this year, two Iranian warships shuttled in a naval visit to Syria. The move prompted an outcry by Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat because of its nuclear program, its calls for Israel's destruction and its support for the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah militants.
Israel, the United States and others want to stop Iran from what they fear is a push by Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. So far the pressure on Iran has been mostly through international sanctions but both Israel and the U.S. have not ruled out a military strike if sanctions fail.
Iran says its nuclear program aims only to produce electricity.