Just found this thread, thought I would provide a few additional details and correct some incorrect analysis.
The hull design is North Korean, but it is the Sang-o class. The Iranian version of the Sang-o class can reportedly carry 16 mines deployed by 2
533mm torpedo tubes. Much of the electronics are reportedly Russian and Chinese. They are designed to deploy the EM-53 bottom-tethered mines, a very
sophesticated and lethal Chinese bottom mine.
According to a defense document crafted in September 2005 that was leaked out of Iran by a former high ranking officer of the Revolutionary Guard, the
Iranian mini-sub strategy is to mine the 4 KM wide strait area near Bandar Abbas supported by over 1000 fast boats armed with 50 cal machine guns,
rocket launchers, and anti-tank missiles. Remember, while the strait itself is much wider, there is only one 4 km wide lane that where deep draft
vessels can travel safely without running aground in the Strait of Hormuz. The rest of the strait is too shallow. On Navigation charts, it shows 1
lane 2km wide for bidirectional traffic, with 1 KM wide buffer on each side.
An Iranian blog taken down late last year had extensive details of the Iranian mini-submarine program, and many of the pictures were stolen and have
been propagated by other bloggers on the web. I think those photos can be found in another thread on this forum. The google cache has expired and is
no longer available unfortunately.
The current production rate is 1 every few months since last year. There have been pictures circulated of 3 of the subs launching, with another in
construction. It should be finished in a month or two.
The straits shallow water and fast currents make the Sang-O class particularly dangerous. While they don't have the sonar technology to track an
enemy sub or even a ship at long range, the subs are perfect for minelaying. Even the Iranians, who have virtually no experience building submarines
can have success in the strait, the waters are so loud that detection range would be limited to about 1-5km for even the best sub based sonars, which
would make it very difficult for the US Navy to hunt mini subs with other submarines.
Given the ranges in the strait, it would be equally difficult for the Navy to do ASW operations with aircraft until dominance of the coastline has
As far as the Iranian Kilo subs, they have been in poor shape for years. Last summer, Russia announced they might modernize the subs for 90 million
per, this would be the first upgrade since being delivered in 1992-1994.
It is unclear however if the deal was signed, or if this ever happened, since Washington never made a stink of it.
Until the Iranian Kilo's are upgraded, they would be ineffective against modern warships, and would likely be used only in the minelaying role.
Remember, they have early 1980s tech sonars, only have torpedos for offensive firepower, they have the propeller noise problem the first Kilo flight
had being they were exported before Russia fixed that problem, and can in no way be reasonably compared to the Chinese, Indian, or Russian Kilo's
which are much more modern.