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Iran: Naval anti-surface warfare capability

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posted on Jul, 5 2006 @ 05:12 PM

Part 1: Naval anti-surface warfare capability, actual and near future

This is a follow-up to my Google-Earth research on the Iranian Military and Total Firepower Rating (Anti-ship missiles) research. I’ve done a fair bit of digging about Iranian naval power and found that most revered sources, like Global Security, are quite vague and that the online military watchers don’t provide anything like as much info as they do on many other countries. The good side to this is that my info is pretty fresh, the down side is that much of it is speculation.

1. - Major surface combatants
Iran seems to have retired all its old destroyers and large patrol ships. The main surface combatants are the remaining Alvand (Saam) Class corvettes and a new corvette seems to be under construction.

1.1 – Alvand Class corvettes

Illustration by me

Number in service: 3
Displacement: 1,200 tons
Armament (anti-ship missiles): 4 x C-802 anti-ship missiles, 1 x 114mm Gun
Armament (air defense): Poor. 1 x twin 20mm AAA, 2 x single 20mm AAA. Possibly shoulder launched SAMs.
Armament (other): 2 x 81mm mortars, 2 x 0.50cal machine guns, 1 x Limbo ASW mortar, 2x triple 12.75” torpedo tubes.

Recent Google-Earth images confirm that three of these are still in use although serviceability is unclear. All three have been modernized with four Chinese C-802 (YJ-82) anti-ship missiles which have a maximum range of about 120km and replaces the obsolete Sea Killer missiles originally fitted. The SeaCat SAM launcher seems to have been removed but at least one still has the Limbo anti-submarine mortar. There are no apparent changes in radar fit which raises questions about the C-802’s efficiency.

These vessels lack any credible air-defenses and would be particularly vulnerable to air-strike as was demonstrated when one of this class was sunk by the US in 1988 and another severely damaged.

1.2 – Mowaj
Sometimes spelt Mowj, though often described as a “destroyer” in the press, this seems to be a corvette based on the Alvand class (see above). Reports in the press, mostly several years old, talk of how Iran is building a new destroyer class called Mowaj. A credible source, Tel Aviv university, says that a single Mowaj class corvette, of about 1,200 tons (basically the same as the Alvand) is under construction at Bandar Abbas. This ties in with Google-Earth satellite imagery which clearly shows a part-finished warship moored beside the three Alvand class corvettes:

The satellite image may be several years old but it seems reasonable to assume that the Mowaj has not been fitted out with weapons quite yet else it would have been paraded in front of the national press as yet another great achievement of the Iranian military.

The current frosty relations with Britain rules out a weapons fit similar to that of the British supplied Alvand class corvettes it’s based on. The weapons fit is likely to come either from China or Russia and is likely to have been contracted several years ago.

Possible weapons fits, China:
The Chinese supplied C-802 anti-ship missile is pretty standard throughout the Iranian navy but has been superceded in Chinese service by the improved C-803 (YJ-83) which has a widely quoted range of up to 200km, significantly further than ship-launched Harpoon. Another Chinese missile now entering service is the C-602 (YJ-62) which is much bigger with a 300kg warhead and 280km range. The YJ-62 is more akin to the Tomahawk than the Harpoon and also comes in land-attack versions.

China would also supply an air-defenses; the HQ-7, based on the French Crotale system, is already in service with the Iranians in its land-based form and seems a natural choice. The LY-6 SAM system, based on the Italian Aspide, has recently been exported to Pakistan so must also be considered in the running. The Mowaj is too small to carry the much more advanced HQ-9 area air defense missile system which is based on the Russian S-300 (SA-10). Close in defense would be in the form of either the older twin 37mm gun turrets, or the much more advanced type-730 CIWS which is analogous to the Phalanx CIWS.

The Chinese weapons fit would be topped off with a 100mm compact main gun of French design origin.

Possible weapons fits, Russia:
Iran is not thought to have any Russian supplied anti-ship missiles currently in service. The likely candidate would be the SS-N-25 Swtichblade missile which has a 130km range and is generally equivalent to the US Harpoon. Much more dangerous is the supersonic SS-N-26 “Yakhont” anti-ship missile which has a range of 300km and an impact speed of about Mach 2.5 making it very hard to shoot down.

The Mowaj doesn’t seem to have space for the infamous SS-N-22 Sunburn (“Moskit”) supersonic anti-ship missile and the SS-N-27 “Klub” cruise missile, with its potent 220km range and land-attack potential, normally has vertical launch silos which are not apparent on the satellite view.

The Russians have already sold Iran the SA-15 “Tor” air-defense system so this seems a natural choice for the Mowaj. The Tor is highly regarded and has a potent anti-missile capability. It is launched from shallow vertical launch bins which could easily be added to the Mowaj’s decks. Another SAM option is the SA-19 Grisom which on naval vessels is normally part of the Kashtan combined gun/missile CIWS – probably the best CIWS in the world. A longer ranged option is the SA-17 Grizzly missile system.

The Russian weapons fit would be finished with an AK-176 (76mm) or AK-100 (100mm) main gun.

Illustration by me

Anti-ship missile systems ranges compared:

2. – Fast attack craft
The Iranian navy places a great emphasis on fast attack craft (FACs), both missile boats and torpedo boats. The majority of the missile boats are imported Chinese designs although a significant number of pre-revolution European boats remain in service. There are reports of an indigenous missile boat building program referred to as Sina. What is easier to evidence is the indigenous torpedo boat program.

2.1 – Thondor Class FACs

Number in service: 10
Armament (anti-ship): 4 x C-802 (YJ-82) missiles
Armament (other): Twin 30mm AAA, Twin 23mm AAA

Of Chinese design, these craft are typical of missile boats worldwide. The C-802 missile is similar to the Exocet but significantly greater ranged due to its turbojet engine. The AAA does not amount to a CIWS in the popular sense and the 23mm cannon, added behind the bridge, appears to be unguided and may be a local modification. Google-Earth and press photos suggests that many of these vessels only routinely carry two missile tubes.

2.2 – “China Cat” FACs

Number in service: 6 ~ 10
Armament (anti-ship): 6 ~ 8 C-701 short range missiles
Armament (other): Machine guns or light cannon, manually aimed.

The class name for these boats remains unknown. Although they are widely credited with carrying C-701 anti-ship missiles recent photographs of them in service show a conspicuous absence of these missiles and fire control radars. The C-701 is a comparatively short ranged anti-ship missile designed for littoral combat. Iran also operates a shore based variant (see below) and is reported to be building these missiles under license. The C-701 has a maximum range of about 20km putting it in a similar category to the Br

[edit on 5-7-2006 by planeman]

posted on Jul, 5 2006 @ 05:13 PM

....The C-701 has a maximum range of about 20km putting it in a similar category to the British designed Sea Skua.

(note how the label near the model describes it as a frigate, lol)

2.3 – Kaman class FACs

Number in service: 6 (total of 10 boats reported but not all thought to be active)
Armament (anti-ship): 4 x C-802 missiles
Armament (other): 1 x 76mm automatic gun, 1 x 40mm AAA

Of French origin, these “Combattante II” type missile boats have been refitted with Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles.

2.4 – Sina class FACs
No picture available

Reported to be based on the Kaman (Combattante II) missile boats but locally produced.

2.5 – Low Observable torpedo boat

Illustration by me

Number in service: At least 5. my estimate is 10+
Armament (anti-ship): 2 x 21” torpedoes or, potentially but not likely, 2 x Shkval rocket torpedoes
Armament (other): Possibly machine guns, unguided.

Although a lot of evidence of these boats exists, both on Google-Earth and in press photos of the Iranian navy, very little if anything is known in the public domain, at least going by my internet research. The hull shape is clearly designed to be stealthy with facetted lines which deflect radar waves away from the boat. The shallow angle of the twin silos and lack of fire control radars suggests that this boat carries torpedoes not missiles and is probably designed to launch them from within visual range. Whilst Iran is known to have the Russian design Shkval rocket torpedo which travels at 200kts (about 5 times faster than a conventional torpedo) and has a range of 7km, I think it is unlikely that it will have been incorporated into these boats yet. However, if it were the combination of Shkval and stealthy launch platform would make these craft the most potent anti-ship weapon in Iran’s navy.

2.6 – other craft

Iran operates many many small combat craft, many equipped with machine guns or as in the photo above, cannon (quite how the chaps on that boat hope to fire that 23mm AAA gun with any degree of accuracy escapes me). These are of limited military value except perhaps as “suicide rammers” and radar and sound clutter to assist concealment of more potent military assets.

3. – Air launched anti-ship missiles

Iran has a credible fleet of ship-strike tasked fighter bombers capable of reaching far out into the Indian Ocean, moreso with Iran’s demonstrated in-flight refueling capability. Only the 23 or so Su-24 Fencers are believed to carry anti-ship missiles but each can carry 2 C-802 air launched anti-ship missiles (locally called “Noor”) making them very potent.

4. – Shore batteries
Iran is reported to have several types of missile in shore batteries including the Chinese first generation “Silkworm” (Styx) missiles and more recent C-802 missiles. But the only recent photo evidence points towards the much shorter ranged C-701 missile (as on China Cat above) which has a range of about 20km. These are truck mounted and because they are modern and mobile represent a serious if localized threat in the narrow gulf:

5. – submarines
Iran has three Kilo class conventional submarines and at least one min-sub. I’ll fill this bit in another time….

[edit on 5-7-2006 by planeman]

posted on Jul, 5 2006 @ 05:27 PM
your topics just crave WATs dont they

again great detail i wish i had the patience to write as much as u do in detail.

posted on Jul, 6 2006 @ 04:10 AM
Planeman, you must be having a lot of fun with GE. anyway, another great work. you've got my WATS.

You have voted planeman for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have two more votes this month.

OH NO, You forgot the iranian awesome carrier-killing stealthy flying boat :lol

just a few points you would like to add to your work:

Iranian midget subs

Ghadir: attack sub. 2 already commissioned. The mass production line was inaugurated early this year, at the cost of 18 mil each.


And the low observable torpedo boat you talked about, I don't think it's long enough to carry a pair of shkvals. It's more likely to carry one of those locally-produced magnetic/electrical torpedos.


posted on Jul, 6 2006 @ 07:12 AM
It should be noted the Navy testified in front of the House Armed Services committee early this year that Iran is considered to have somewhere between 1000-1500 small attack craft armed with anything from 50 cal machine guns to 30mm anti-tank guns, or a combination of, utilized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that have trained in tactics to raid commercial shipping pirate style, lay minefields with rocket launchers, or swarm military vessels.

posted on Jul, 6 2006 @ 11:36 AM
5. – Submarines
Iran has a rapidly expanding submarine fleet has at least three large conventional submarines, and two "mini-subs". Whilst many reports cite North Korean mini-sub technology as a key factor, the designs are essentially home grown.

5.1 – Ghadir class littorial submarine

Illustration by me

Number in service: 1 (some reports say 2)
Displacement (my estimate): 500 tons
Armament: Two torpedo tubes, probably 12”. 2, possibly 4 or 6, heavyweight torpedoes or mines.

Reportedly being mass produced, the first of this class, Ghadir, has been paraded for the press. Although this is generally described as a mini-submarine, it appears slightly larger and is probably better described as a littoral submarine similar in concept to the Italian Sauro class although significantly smaller.

Photo evidence suggests that it has two torpedo tubes in the bow which appear to be 21” allowing them to fire typical heavyweight torpedoes and more crucially, making them a viable platform for the infamous Shkval rocket torpedo. The Shkval has a range of 7km at an incredible speed of 200kts, about 5 times faster than a conventional torpedo. There is no doubt that Iran has rocket torpedoes but it is unknown how many of them or what platforms they will deploy them on. At this moment in time it seems more realistic that the Ghadir class will primarily carry conventional torpedoes.

Iranian test firing of a Shkval rocket torpedo

The many masts and aerials atop the submarine’s sail include a optical periscope (which looks very modern and appears to have night vision etc), a surface search radar and various communications aerials. This demonstrates that these are not crude or technologically backwards submarines and cannot be dismissed in the same way that most North Korean mini-submarines can.

Although there are no reports of Iran purchasing submarine launched anti-ship missiles but the potential is there. These small conventional submarines are well suited to the confined waters of the Gulf and pose a very credible threat to warships.

5.2 – Nahang class mini-submarines

Illustration by me

Number in service: 1
Displacement (estimated by me): 150-200 tons
Armament: Carried externally, 2 x 21” torpedoes or more likely, 4-6 mines

Recently revealed, the Nahang class is a true mini-sub, being too small for internal torpedo tubes. Like its WW2 predecessors, it carries its weapons externally. Iranian TV images of a computer generated simulation appear to show mines attached below the side bulges. These are likely to be Russian or Chinese supplied torpedo mines similar to the US CAPTOR mine system.

The Nahong does have a surface search radar and communications masts which make it unsuited to harbor infiltration but well suited to clandestine mine laying with a limited capability to mount ambush torpedo attacks.

5.3 – Kilo class conventional submarines (SSK)

An Iranian Kilo class SSK seen on the surface with a Thondor class missile boat in the background.

Number in service: 3
Displacement: 3076 tons
Armament: 6 torpedo tubes; up to 18 torpedoes or 24 mines

Renowned for their quite running, the Kilo class represents a formidable threat both in the gulf and in the Indian Ocean.

[edit on 6-7-2006 by planeman]

posted on Jul, 8 2006 @ 06:56 AM
Wow, Great thread

Very informative and well laid out....not that I'm a pro...but it was easy for me to read

posted on Jul, 8 2006 @ 08:34 AM
Double Post.

[edit on 8-7-2006 by Daedalus3]

posted on Jul, 8 2006 @ 08:34 AM
Planeman could you find the Ghadir/Nahang/Iranian Kilos on Google Earth?

posted on Jul, 10 2006 @ 03:57 PM

Originally posted by Daedalus3
Planeman could you find the Ghadir/Nahang/Iranian Kilos on Google Earth?

I already did though I previously hadn't noticed the Ghadir since I wasn't looking for it:

posted on Jul, 10 2006 @ 04:41 PM
Doing a fantastic job on these posts.

Keep up the great work!

posted on Jul, 22 2006 @ 08:19 PM
Well now that a C-802 made a hit on a Saar-5 class ship, what do you think planeman, does Iran has a chance to defend its waters? Though with the lack to defend their airspace (outdated systems won't help that much) those C-802 may never be fired at all...

posted on Jul, 22 2006 @ 08:26 PM
yeh, its clear than any future war between the West and Iran simply wouldn't be a pushover for the West. Sure eventually Iran will be crushed, but the casualty rates on both sides will be probably the highest in any modern day conventional war

posted on Jul, 23 2006 @ 01:33 PM
Dont forget that the US has an array of anti missile systems on their ships, especially carriers. They also have advance tracking capabilities and can find a missile before it comes and hits the ships. So this would make the US invulnerable to Iran's antiship missiles.

posted on Jul, 23 2006 @ 02:18 PM

Originally posted by Peyres
yeh, its clear than any future war between the West and Iran simply wouldn't be a pushover for the West. Sure eventually Iran will be crushed, but the casualty rates on both sides will be probably the highest in any modern day conventional war

Ehm, are you saying it because of this info about their navy? Because so far I´ve read in planemans posts their navy is pretty weak (they would probably not even leave ports before destroyed) and their AA defences are dissapointment for me too.

posted on Jul, 24 2006 @ 07:39 AM
well its not only the navy. Don't they have Mig 29's etc etc

posted on Aug, 6 2008 @ 03:07 PM
Seems to me that Iran can pose a significant threat to Western interests in the Gulf, rather in the same way that a couple of hundred years ago the fledgling US navy was able to threaten the Royal Navy. Man up (or Ship up) they could not hope to win, but they were facing a foe displaced across the world. The number of units that could be brought to bear at the same time in the same place was not significantly larger than the US fleet in home waters. Secondly, they don't have to defeat the US as such, all they have to do is deny access to the Straits of Hormuz etc. Perhaps not even that: if they just manage to sink four or five capital ships, the political damage to the US along with the economic chaos they could wreak through interrupting energy supplies in the middle east would be significant indeed.

PS whilst on paper US anti-missile defences seem invulnerable, I wouldn't use such a strong word. The British in the Falklands, the USS Stark and the Cole ramming all show that Western ships can be vulnerable.

posted on Nov, 4 2008 @ 06:26 PM
I am Iranian & liked what you have written but don't understand the title. We are not in the Gulf of Mexico we haven't occupy Canada and Mexico and install people that have been working for our oil companies. Our soldier haven't raped the 11 years old girl and slaughter her family to cover their crime. We don't brag about Democracy and every 5 years invade smaller country and so on. YOU are in our back yard the back yard that has been our for past 5000 years. We don't want the fight because except the US armament industry no one wins, BUT don't get me wrong we will fight not like those hapless Iraqi or Idiot Taliban we will fight to the death professionally and willingly. Come in Peace or go in pieces, US army with out its atomic weapons become a ordinery army with lots fancy gadget.
AS guest your welcome as enemy god help you because Bush wont

posted on Nov, 19 2008 @ 03:07 PM
reply to post by Anonymous ATS

its siad that cowerd dies many times before their death but gallant once happily & honourly.
we both (me & a friend of mine) feeling up for your well truly patritism which steeped us in pure proud.
we as iranian naval academic officers feeling great to find out that there are those who kept their head up while others down!
we keep our fingrs crossed to be real servant for the ever azure persian gulf.
to your ever more backup words,bye

posted on Nov, 19 2008 @ 05:08 PM
reply to post by Anonymous ATS

I don't think Americans understand it... they believe in everything that government tells them... Iran might be invaded and people in this country will think they are saving the world from evil Iranians... that is how blind they are... but with the new president things might change for the better! I hope... Sorry if my post was a bit off topic...

In any case... Iran has interesting tech... lets hope it will never be used...

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