Bluffer's Guide - Fortress Iran Part 2, Naval Power
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Bluffer’s Guide: Fortress Iran 2, Naval Power
LARGER WARSHIPS (CORVETTES etc)
1 x Mowj Class, Iranian Navy, Iranian built
3 x Alvand Class, Iranian Navy, British built.
1x Hamzeh Class, Iranian Navy, Dutch built
2 x Bayandor Class, Iranian Navy, US built (gun armed, not illustrated)
Alvand Class Corvette
Quantity in Service: 3
Displacement: 1,540 tons full load
Dimensions: L 94.5m, W 11.7m, Dr 3.25m
Powerplant: 2 x Gas Turbines 23,000 shp plus two diesels 1900hp
Armament: 4 x C-802 “Noor” anti-ship missiles, 1 x 114mm Gun, 1 dual 35mm (manned) 3 x (manned) GAM-BO1 20mm cannon, 1 x Limbo ASW mortar (may be inoperable), 2 x triple 12.7mm lightweight torpedoes (Alvand only), 2 x 12.7mm HMGs (manned).
Of 1960s vintage, the remaining Alvand class corvettes have been partially rearmed most crucially with the generally capable C-802 anti-ship missile in place of the obsolete Sea Killer missiles.
Sensor fit and air defences are very poor by contemporary standards and the survivability of these boats in open conflict is seriously open to doubt.
Moudge Class Corvette
Displacement: 1,400 tons
Dimensions: L 94m, W 10m, Dr 3.25m (Actual dimensions may be almost exactly as per Alvand)
Crew: ??? (est 100+)
Powerplant: 2 x 10,000hp diesels
Armament: 4 x C-802 “Noor” anti-ship missiles, 1 x 76mm Gun, 1 CIWS (20mm, indigenous?), 1 x dual AAA (35mm?), 2 x triple 12.7mm lightweight torpedoes
Helicopters: Landing pad only
Also commonly spelt Mowj and Mowaj, this indigenous corvette is essentially a reverse engineered Vosper Mk 5 (Alvand Class, see above). It has several Iranian adaptations, most significantly a purely diesel power pack which results in a significant drop in performance.
Another conspicuous difference is the addition of a helipad on the aft deck, requiring a repositioning of the anti-ship missiles to amidships. Above the bridge is what appears to be a CIWS similar to the US 20mm Phalanx. However at the rear of the ship the AAA appears to be a twin turret, possibly manned 35mm as on the Alvand class. The main gun is a reverse engineered OTO Melara 76mm automatic, an excellent general purpose medium gun albeit somewhat behind the current OTO Melara versions.
Unlike most contemporary corvettes, the Moudge does not feature a radar signature reducing hull form. In all fairness the air defences appear to be a significant improvement over the Alvands, but still someway short of the current norm for warships this size.
The Moudge does not appear to have an ASW sonar.
Displacement: 580 tons
Dimensions: L 52m, W 7.65m, Dr 3.25m
Powerplant: 2 x 1,300hp diesels
Armament: 4 x C-802 “Noor” anti-ship missiles, 1 x main gun (20mm?), 2 x 12.7mm manned heavy machine guns
Originally the Government Yacht, the Hamzeh has been modified to carry C-802 anti-ship missiles and light defences. Main role probably remains training. The boat operates in the Caspian Sea alongside the SINA missile boats. Confusingly the first widespread pictures of her post-refit where accompanying an Iranian press article announcing the entry into service of the SINA type “corvette” Joshan, causing some confusion as to this boat’s identity. The pennant number appears to have changed also.
Despite a popular press photo showing an AB-212 helicopter, the Hamzeh does not appear to have a helipad.
FAST ATTACK CRAFT (Missile/Torpedo)
6 Kaman Class, Iranian Navy, French Built. (10 hulls)
10 Thondar (Houdong) Class, IRGC-N, Chinese built.
2 SINA Class, Iranian Navy, Iranian built (1 hull awaiting fitting out)
10 IPS-18 Tir Class, IRGC-N, North Korean built
10 IPS-16 Peykaap Class, IRGC-N, North Korean built
3+ Taedong-B/C class(s), ????, North Korean built
10 (est) C-14 “China Cat” class, ????, Chinese designed (locally built)
IPS-18 Tir Class Fast Attack Craft (Torpedo)
Quantity in Service: 10
Displacement: 28.16 tons
Dimensions: L 21.12m, W 5.77m, Dr 0.87m H 2.1m
Powerplant: 3 x 1200hp
Armament: 2 x 533mm (21”) torpedo tubes, 1 x manned 12.7mm HMG
Of North Korean origin, these innovative small fast attack boats are clearly designed with radar cross-section reduction in mind. A retractable radar mast further enhances their ability to hide amongst the clutter of small fishing boats and otherwise inconspicuous minor radar reflections. The stealthiness does not extend to the infrared spectrum though, with raw exhausts venting out of the rear of the boat. Nor is the only defensive weapons position well thought out in this regard, being a single pedestal mounted 12.7mm heavy machine gun which is externally crewed.
In the right circumstances these boats represent a serious threat, but they have limited sea keeping, endurance and sensors thus limiting their combat potential in a wider conflict.
They are potentially armed with Shkval rocket torpedo (range about 6-8km), or the Iranian YT534W1 modern heavyweight torpedo (estimated range about 20-30km), but quite possibly employ very basic unguided torpedoes.
IPS-16 “Peykaap” Fast Attack Craft (Torpedo)
Quantity in Service: 10
Displacement: 13.75 tons
Dimensions: L 16.3m, W 3.75m, Dr 0.67m H 1.93m
Powerplant: 2 x 1200hp
Armament: 2 x 324mm (12.75”) torpedo tubes, small-arms
Delivered from North Korea though often claimed as indigenous, the Paykaap is easily perceived as the little brother to the Tir class (see above) because it has similar origin and overall characteristics but is smaller and lighter armed.
It appears to have stealth characteristics although little attention has been paid to the IR spectrum. The torpedo tubes are mounted on either side of the cabin in a stealthy fairing. The slight bulge on top of the torpedo tubes is probably the compressed air cylinder used to eject the torpedo from the tube, and its position makes it very possible that the torpedo tubes are exactly the same as those on the Taedong-B (illustrated above).
The small size, high speed and low radar signature make this type a potent adversary, but it lacks any meaningful self-defence weaponry should an enemy attempt to engage it. Its lightweight torpedoes are probably inadequate to sink most warships.
Semi-submersible Fast Attack Craft
Quantity in service: 3 (est)
1 x Taedong-B “Kajami”
2 x Taedong-C “Gahjae”
Iran is reported to operate a small number of North Korean designed Taedong-B and Taedong-C semi-submersible attack craft delivered in 2002. At least one such boat, thought to be a Taedong-B “Kajami”, has been publicly displayed during war-games. This appearance substantiates previous media reports but beyond that much remains speculation.
Both types are believed to be equipped with lightweight 324mm (12.75”) torpedoes. Typical torpedoes in this size class have a range of between 6km and 10km. It is extremely unlikely that these boats will be refitted with the larger Shkval rocket torpedo or anti-ship missiles.
It is not clear whether the attack profiles of these boats is to lay in wait submerged and then attack at high speed on the surface, or vice versa to approach at high speed then submerge for the final stage of the attack. The boats can probably dive to about 3m depth using a snort mast which remains on/near the surface. The vessel is probably capable of about 40kts on the surface and about 10kts submerged.
It is reported that the Taedong-C class closely resembles the Peykaap class torpedo boat, and it may be that the Peykaap is itself the submersible boat, although that seems unlikely.
Although these boats offer some novel tactical opportunities for Iran, they are unlikely to be successful if operating against larger warships armed with their own anti-submarine torpedoes, or fast moving targets. The lightweight torpedoes are unlikely to sink even a modest warship although obviously a successful attack could immobilize even a large warship.
“China Cat” Fast Attack Craft (Missile)
Quantity in Service: 10 +
Displacement: 19 tons
Dimensions: L 13.65m, W 4.8m, Dr 0.7m
Powerplant: 2 x 1150hp
Armament: 4 x TL-10 or C-701 Kowsar light anti-ship missiles, 1 x manned cannon (20mm?)
10 C-14 missile armed catamarans were ordered from Chinese manufacturer CSSC in 2002, with local production. At least one vessel has been completed in a non-missile configuration and the type is offered in the Iranian defence industry’s export catalogue. The missile equipped boats appear to differ in detail from the CSSC demonstrators with a different (lesser) sensor fit.
The C-701 missile is of Chinese origin though manufactured under license in Iran. It has a 20-25km range and can be TV or Radar guided, making it ideal for littoral combat.
Many reports indicate that the China Cat may employ the Chinese supplied TL-10 anti-ship missile instead of the C-701 described above. The two missile types are generally similar in overall size and capability, albeit different designs. Both come with a range of seekers and minor sub-versions tailored to specific customer needs.
The boats pack an enormous punch for their size and have apparently superb sea keeping for their size (though by no means ocean going vessels), but their air defence is conspicuously lacking.
SINA Class Missile Boat
Quantity: 2 (plus 1 building)
Displacement: 300 tons
Dimensions: L 47m, W 7m, Dr 2m
Crew: ??? (est 31)
Powerplant: 4 x 3,500hp diesels
Armament: 4 x C-802 “Noor” anti-ship missiles, 1 x 76mm Gun, 1 40mm AAA (crewed), 2 x 12.7mm HMG (crewed)
The first SINA class boat, Peykan, became operational in 2006 followed by a second unit, Joshan. Reverse engineered Combattante-II (Kaman class) boats the only obvious external difference is the main radar.
The 76mm is a locally produced version of the OTO-Melara 76mm gun fitted to the Kamans.
Kaman Class Missile Boat
Quantity in service: 6 (est). (10 total hulls still available)
Displacement: 275-300 tons
Dimensions: L 47m, W 7m, Dr 2m
Powerplant: 4 x 3,500hp diesels
Armament: 4 x C-802 “Noor” anti-ship missiles, 1 x 76mm Gun, 1 40mm AAA (crewed), 2 x 12.7mm HMG (crewed).
Delivered from France and previously equipped with US supplied Harpoon missiles, these boats were re-armed with the Chinese C-802 missile in the late 1990s. 10 hulls remain but only 6 are thought to be operational. One has been used for tests, being at one time equipped with Standard SM-1 missiles.
Thondar Class Missile Boat
Quantity in service: 10
Displacement: 205 tons
Dimensions: L 33.6m, W 7.6m, Dr 2.7m
Powerplant: 3 x 8,000bhp diesels
Armament: 4 x C-802 “Noor” anti-ship missiles, 1 x twin 30mm AAA, 1 x twin 23mm AAA (crewed)
Often referred to by their Chinese name, Houdong class, these boats were delivered from China in the mid 1990s, and are operated by the IRGC-N.
3 x Kilo Class SSK, Iranian Navy, Russian built (not illustrated)
3 x Ghadir class SSC, Iranian Navy (?), Iranian built
1 x Nahong class SSM, Iranian Navy (?), Iranian built
1 x Al Sabehat 15 SDV, Iranian Navy (?), Iranian built
Ghadir Class Midget Submarine
Quantity in Service: 3
Dimensions: L 29m, W 2.75m
Displacement : 120 tons dived
Speed (est): 11kts surfaced, 8kts submerged
Armament: 2 x 533mm (21”) torpedo tubes with 2~4 torpedoes, Skhval rocket torpedoes or 4~8 mines. Possibly submarine launched anti-ship missiles but unsubstantiated.
Possibly of North Korean design, the Ghadir (Qadir) submarine closely resembles the North Korean “Yugo Class”, itself a derivative of Yugoslavian (now Croatian) types. One noteworthy feature is that the Ghadir appears to have conventional cruciform tail fins. Estimates of the size of this submarine vary greatly.
These boats are credible littoral submarines well suited to mine laying, infiltration/Special Forces operation and limited anti-surface warfare. Their torpedo tubes could conceivably carry the Shkval rocket torpedo or even submarine launched anti-ship missiles which Iran reportedly has. But their sensor fit is almost certainly basic by contemporary standards limiting their potential against other subs and advanced warships. There is also no reason to suppose that they are particularly quiet and the shallow water of the Gulf is likely to leave them exposed to anti-submarine warfare.
Nahong Class midget submarine
Quantity in service: 1
A small midget submarine suited to mine laying and special operations with possible limited anti-ship strike capability. Armament is likely to consist of mines carried externally although it is possible that 533mm torpedoes could also be carried in this manner as is the case with similar submarines in WW2.
Mines could include the potent Chinese designed EM52 fast rising rocket mine which can be laid in deep water, attacking its target by firing a rocket up into the underbelly of the ship, so fast that evasive action is unlikely. The EM52’s rocket is unguided and is less sophisticated than some equivalent top-end naval mines, but it does offer Iran a serious threat to enemy shipping.
Believed to be operational in Caspian sea but not verified.
”Al Sabehat 15” Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (Submersible)
Quantity in service: 1(?)
Crew: 2 + up to 7 additional divers
Weapons: up to 17 Limpet mines
A small “chariot” design typical of special forces insertion vehicles, the type is only suitable for coastal operations.
Can be launched from a ship or under-slung from a large helicopter (Sea King, Mi-8 Hip or Chinook).
Quantity in Service: ? 1
Dimensions: L 7m
Weight: (est) 3 tons (armed)
Weapons: 21" (533mm) heavyweight torpedo, possibly type YT534W1
Recently paraded, this two man "wet sub" has a notch out of the bottom suggesting that it is designed to carry a single heavyweight torpedo semi-recessed. The two crew members use frogman apparatus. The clear nosecone appears to be for the driver to see where they are going when underwater, presumably crouched inside the hull. The small forward control planes are probably hand operated by the driver.
An interesting craft, it is not clear how the crew aim the torpedo with any degree of accuracy except at very short ranges.
Small craft, often based on civilian speed boats. Lightly armed with machine guns, MRLS, AAA, RPG or mines.
Displacement: 6.4 tons
Dimensions: L 9.3m, W 3.45m, Dr 0.6m
Powerplant: 2 x 1260hp
Armament: Typically 1 x 12.7mm HMG and 1x12 107mm rocket launcher (MRLS).
Typically of locally produced small boats that have been adapted for warfare, often being labeled as “Boghammars”. The MIG-G-0900 is reportedly a catamaran, and comes in several variants including a mini-passenger ferry. The military/paramilitary version is typically equipped with a 107mm MRLS.
The MRLS is probably the Iranian produce “Haseb”, a derivative of the Chinese designed Type-73 which has an effective range of 8.5km and has a HE-Fragmentation warheads. The rocket weighs 18.8kg rocket including the 8.3kg TNT warhead (or 6.4kg blast –fragmentation warhead), which produces a 12.5m blast radius. A 12 round salvo is fired in 8 seconds. It is not known whether the weapons mount is gyrostabilised for accuracy – if not accuracy would likely be appalling.
Alternative armaments include RPG-7 rocket propelled grenades or 106mm recoilless rifle.
These boats have an advantage in their small size and relative similarity to civilian types allowing them to hide among legitimate civilian fishing fleets. However their weapons are too light to be a serious concern to military vessels.
SHORE BATTERIES (Anti-Ship Missiles)
100+ C-802/C-802A Noor
100+ HY-2 “Silkworm”
?? C-701T/C-701R “Kosar”
?? TL-10 “Kosar” (possibly only ship launched units)
?? Ra’ad, Iranian designed
Maximum number of missiles per launch vehicle: 3
Iran deploys C-802s using a Chinese designed truck launcher with up to three missile boxes which are fired over the left side of the trailer. A command shelter is mounted forward of the missile turntable. The truck itself may be locally sourced, possible an Iveco.
The C-802 family is the most potent of Iran’s anti-ship missiles being credited with generally good anti-jamming capabilities and high hit probability.
Third party targeting and mid-course update is required to hit targets over about 60km away.
Also romanised “Kowsar”, this name refers to several short ranged anti-ship missile types of Chinese origin that Iran is producing. Clearly Iran is producing versions of both the C-701 and TL-10 families of missiles. Both types come in both TV and Radar seeker versions, with Infrared seekers rumored.
Both have generally similar capabilities although the C-701 is longer ranged and its radar version, unlike the TL-10 radar version, can accept post-launch re-targeting.
The TL-10 is thought to be employed on the China Cat missile boats whereas the C-701 has been showcased as a shore battery system in recent wargames. Both families are capable of shore, ship, helicopter and jet launch.
C-701R quad launcher mounted on Iveco truck:
Maximum number of missiles per launch vehicle: 1
Developed from the HY-2 “Silkworm”, the Ra’ad (Thunder) is Iran’s first truly indigenous anti-ship missile in the minds of many observers’. Although China has developed turbojet versions of the HY-2 family, this missile does not resemble them.
It is launched from an HY-2 launcher suggesting backwards compatibility with the obsolete HY-2. The turreted launcher in question is identical to North Korean ones.
Comparison of Ra’ad (bottom) with HY-2:
Maximum number of missiles per launch launcher: 1
Vehicle: Truck or trailer, possibly some tracked launchers
An old missile supplied by China and subsequently locally produce, the HY-2 is still in widespread service with the IRCG, in both trailer and truck mounted launchers. Despite the useful range and huge warhead, the HY-2 is relatively slow and high flying making it easier to see and shoot down.
Locally designed truck launcher:
AIRBORNE ANTI-SHIP CAPABILITY
Air Force (IRIAF)
32 x Su-24 Fencer, strike bomber, Russia
35 x F-4D/E Phantom-II, multi-role fighter, USA
10 x Mirage F-1, ground attack fighter, France (ex-Iraqi)
10~13 x SH-3D Sea King, helicopter, USA (28 delivered)
?? x Mil Mi-17 Hip (Naval), helicopter, Russia
12 x AB212, helicopter, Italy
3-5 P-3C Orion, maritime patrol aircraft, USA
Su-24 Fencer / Noor
Quantity in service: about 30. Not all may be upgraded to accept the Noor anti-ship missile
Missile: Possibly C-801K, or maybe a later version based on C-802.
Substantiation: Widely reported since mid-late 1990s, hard proof of capability remains elusive.
The Fencer is a very capable strike jet with credible avionics, well suited to maritime strike. If reports that it is operational with Noor anti-ship missiles are true then this represents are relatively potent capability.
Mil Mi-17 ‘Hip’ / Noor
Quantity in service: ?
Missile: C-802 Noor
At least one test launch has been publicized, but operational status unclear. The Noor missile fitted to the Mi-17 is a modification of the ground launched version normally fired from a box launcher. This means that the launch booster and the pop-out folding fins are retained. An advantage of retaining the launch booster is slightly longer range and the ability to fire the missile at very slow speed or hover, but the down side is a rather heavy missile that must exist the helicopter very calmly to ensure that the fins don’t hit the fuselage or pylons when they pop-out split seconds after launch.
SH-3D Sea King / Sea Killer (Fajr-e-Darya)
Type: Light short range anti-ship missile, helicopter launched
Range: Approx 20km
Speed: Mach 0.8
The Italian designed Sea Killer anti-ship missile was supplied to Iran with the Vosper Mk5 corvettes but was withdrawn from service in the early 1990s (replaced by C-802). However the type resurfaced in the late 1990s as the indigenous Fajr-e Darya programme, reborn as a helicopter launched missile. The programme is thought to have benefited from Chinese assistance, sometimes described by the Chinese designation FL-6. Although the missile has been paraded publicly in recent years, and seen mounted on Iranian Navy SH-3D Sea King helicopters, it seems to have been eclipsed by the Chinese C-701 and TL-10 missile types (see Kosar above).
The missile closely resembles the Italian Marte Mk2 missile because they are both derived from the Sea Killer. The European missile uses an active radar seeker and is generally more capable.
Naval Power: Update
The Iranian indigenous Corvette program continues at a very slow speed, although the ship is probably at least at sea-trials stage. Since my 2007 analysis new photos and satellite imagery has become available which clarifies some details and the weapons fit. Although the ship may carry shoulder-launched SAMs, it almost certainly doesn’t have a ‘proper’ naval SAM system. Air defences appear to consist of two manual aimed 20mm AAA in front of the bridge, a 76mm DP main gun and an AAA tutrret, probably twin 35mm, at the rear; this is a major deficiency.
Using the historic imagery function on Google Earth we can observe the slow pace of development:
It’s now clear that there are two basic versions of the ‘China Cat’ catamaran fast attack craft in Iranian service. The first is a missile boat with 4 Kowsar missiles, probably of the TL-10A type. The second is a rocket armed boat with an MRLS on the cabin roof. The two versions have different cabin sides (the missile armed one has small round windows, the rocket armed one normal windows), and completely different masts and sensor fits. The gun at the front is now confirmed as a single barreled Zu-23 23mm autocannon.
An Iranian produced follow-on to the North Korean designed IPS-16 ‘Peykaap’ torpedo boat, this version has a significantly redesigned cabin, mast and additionally has two light anti-ship missiles on it. The missiles appear to be C-701 (“Kowsar’ – for an explanation of the various confusingly same-named Kowsar missiles see the previous posts linked to above).
The Peykaap-II (top) is less stealthy than the Peykaap-I and probably has a lower performance. It has been speculated that the Peykaap-I is at least semi-submersible; that’s very unlikely of the new version. At least a handful of these are in service, with my guess at 10-20. Claims that there are 74 in service is a misinterpretation of a press statement I believe.