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Navy Modernization

In order to implement its naval strategy, Iran has engaged in a program to develop and acquire advanced weapons and platforms. Iran's defense planning hinges on three motivations: achieving self-reliance, becoming a regional power, and maintaining strong deterrent measures against future attacks. Overall, Iran's development program has strengthened its naval capabilities, yielding increases in the country's inventory of small boats, mines, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, and air defense equipment.

Initially entirely of foreign origin, Iran's naval fleet suffered major losses since the beginning of the war with Iraq, when it was made up of American- and British-made destroyers and frigates, and some sixty smaller vessels and one of the largest Hovercraft fleets in the world. The Hovercraft had been expressly chosen to operate in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf and proved useful in the 1971 occupation of Abu Musa and the Tunbs. After the cancellation of foreign orders in 1979, the rapid matriel advance of the navy was halted. For example, the Shah's government had ordered six Spruance-class destroyers equipped for antiaircraft operations and three diesel-powered Tang-class submarines from the United States. Washington canceled the sale of these vessels, selling the submarines to Turkey and absorbing the destroyers into the United States Navy. In 1979 Khomeini also canceled an order for six Type-209 submarines from West Germany.

What naval vessels remained in 1987 suffered from two major problems, mainly from a lack of maintenance and lack of spare parts. After the departure of British-United States maintenance teams, the Iranian navy conducted only limited repairs, despite the availability of a completed Fleet Maintenance Unit at Bandar-e Abbas. Consequently, several ships were laid up. Lack of spare parts also plagued the navy more than other services, because Western naval equipment was less widely available on world arms markets than other equipment.

The Iranian Navy was putting in place a multi-layered framework comprised of conventional and asymmetrical subsurface, surface, and airborne systems which can impact open access to Arabian Gulf shipping lanes.

Iran's ambitious plans for escort and patrol capabilities in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean were not necessarily expected to be realized until the Bandar Beheshti naval facility was completed. The country's interest in navigation through the Strait of Hormuz had not diminished, as the contemplated deployment of Chinese-made Silkworm HY-2 surface-to-surface missiles on Larak Island in 1987 clearly indicated. This development underscored Iran's interest in Gulf waters and the navy's role, along with that of Pasdaran units, in protecting them or in denying them to others.

In 1992, Iran and China negotiated a deal for Iran to receive a fleet of 70-ton Chinese patrol boats with Styx anti-ship missiles. In 1993, Iran bought two Russian Kilo-class submarines and eight mini-submarines from North Korea. All done in an effort to rebuild after the Navy was nearly destroyed after the Islamic Revolution, Iran continued to purchase foreign weapons systems.

Despite having a submarine capability, in the 1990s Iran's navy was neither the best equipped nor the strongest in the region. Upon the acquisition of the Kilo-class submarines by the Iranian Navy, Saudi Arabia arranged for delivery of three upgraded La Fayette-type frigates (armed with anti-ship and anti- aircraft missiles, torpedo tubes and anti- submarine warfare helicopters) and one new Sandown-class coastal minesweeper. Iran's Navy, one of the region's most capable, can temporarily disrupt maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz using a layered force of KILO Class diesel submarines, ship- and shore-based antiship cruise missiles and naval mines.

Iranian officials announced in September 2000 that the first of a planned trio of "1,000-ton," missile-equipped "destroyers" would be launched shortly, but there has been no subsequent announcement of the event. The locally designed vessels are said to be 289 feet long, and their machinery, electronics, and weapon systems, along with much other equipment, would have to have been imported. 2000 also saw the deployment of the Al-Sabehat 15 Swimmer Delivery Vehicle, Iran's first domestically produced submarine.

As of 2001 the regular Iranian navy was in a state of overall obsolescence, and in poor shape because there had been no move to re-equip with modern ships and weapons. Iran's three destroyers were over 50 years old at the time and were not operational. The readiness of the three 25-year-old frigates was almost non-existent, and the two 30-year-old corvettes did not have sophisticated weapons. Ten of 20 missile-equipped fast attack craft had limited operational readiness, and four of them were not seaworthy as of 2001. Only 10 Chinese-made Thondar-class (Houdong) craft were operationally reliable. The four 30-year-old minesweepers were obsolete, lack seaworthiness, and did not have a mine-sweeping capability. Iran had many amphibious and auxiliary ships, but these were superfluous to requirements and were used purely for training personnel. Iran's ten hovercraft were old and used sparingly.

In mid-2001 Iran launched the first of a new type of locally built craft equipped with "rocket launchers," according to Tehran Radio, which noted that the ship had been delivered to the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) by the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics. The same ceremony, presided over by Defense Minister Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, saw the launch of two Barak-class oilers, of 1,000 tons capacity, and one Karbala-class tank landing ship (LST). All were designed and built by the Defense Ministry's naval industry department. The landing ship was one of three Hormuz 21-type LSTs, and could have been the one launched at Boushehr in 1997. It is not clear from published sources what type of oilers were launched, the same being true of the missile craft. The new craft could have been one of the reported trio of 1,200-ton corvettes under construction at Bandar Abbas.

In July 2002 a conventional-arms sale triggered sanctions on several Chinese companies. Beijing had transferred high-speed catamaran missile patrol boats to Iran. The C-14 patrol boats are outfitted with anti-ship cruise missiles. Short-range anti-ship missiles for the patrol boats also were sold from China to Iran in January 2002. The catamaran and anti-ship missile sales were first disclosed by The Washington Times in May 2002, shortly after the first of the new C-14 patrol boats was observed by US military intelligence at an Iranian port. The high-speed gunboat can carry up to eight C-701 anti-ship cruise missiles, and usually have one gun. There have also been reports of Iran possessing another type of anti-ship system. Up to 16 Sunburst anti-ship missile systems were traded in the early 1990's from the Ukraine.

Fifteen semi-submersible gunboats used in special operations were sent to Iran from North Korea, "The Washington Times" reported on 16 December 2002. The boats were shipped aboard an Iranian freighter. US intelligence officials expressed concern that Iran could use the gunboats to threaten US ships in the region. In an indication of Iran's willingness to use the means at its disposal, Multinational Interdiction Force deputy coordinator Commander Nick Chatwin of the British Navy in a 16 December Reuters report displayed a photograph of an oil tanker with a hole in it that was created by a rocket-propelled grenade launched from an Iranian naval vessel.

In January 2003 a report in the World Tech Tribune indicated that the Iranian Navy would launch a missile frigate in March 2003. The frigate was identified as Sina 1. The report also indicated that Iranian officials stated that a destroyer would also be introduced over time. The destroyer, the Mowj, was being constructed and was expected to be completed sometime after the launch of Sina 1.

Between 2003 and 2005 authorities in the Iranian Navy continued to talk about their pushes for greater self-sufficiency, including the continued development of domestically produced missile boats and frigates, as well as new details about submarine projects. In 2006 and 2007 the Iranian Navy accepted new missile boats and a frigate, as well as two types of submarines. The Sina class missile boats, introduced in 2006, were essentially Iranian copies of Kaman missile boats already in service. Also in 2006 the Iranians deployed the first of the Nahang class of midget submarines, described as the first Iranian submarine designed and produced without foreign assistance. In 2007 the Iranian Navy accepted the first of 3 planned Mowj-class frigates, again essentially copies of a ship already in Iranian inventory, the Alvand class. Also in 2007 deployed the Qadir midget submarine, sometimes referred to as the first of the Yono class. This submarine was described as being a completely Iranian development, but observers noted that it was almost visually identical to North Korean Yugo class submarines.

Since 2007 the IRIN was assigned to the Gulf of Oman and Caspian Sea, while the IRGCN was given full responsibility for operations in the Persian Gulf. This division of Iran's primary bodies of water is logical given the characteristics ofIRIN and IRGCN ships. The IRIN operates traditional large warships and auxiliary ships, which have the endurance and sea-keeping qualities needed for extended patrols and missions in open waters. This makes the IRIN the natural service to deploy in the Gulf of Oman to push Iran's reconnaissance as far out as possible and also to engage enemy forces as far away from Iranian territory as possible.

The IRGCN operates a force of much smaller boats, most of which lack the endurance or configuration to remain at sea for more than a few days. These boats will now operate in the enclosed waters ofthe Persian Gulf and the Strait, and will rarely be far from an IRGCN base. As a coastal, more flexible force, the IRGCN began primarily with small patrol craft, similar to fishing or pleasure vessels. However, over time and with increased funds, the IRGCN sought out better equipped vessels and technology, often from abroad. In the mid-l99Os the IRGCN acquired ten 38-rneter HOUDONG-dass missile boats from China armed with C802 anti-ship cruise missiles. Iran also received the Chinesebuilt C-14-dass missile boat in late 2000. This l4-meter craft carries short-range anti-ship cruise missiles and a rocket launcher, and has a catamaran hull allowing it to reach speeds up to 50 knots. Later, in 2006, the IRGCN took delivery from China of the MK l3-class patrol craft also measuring 14 meters but armed with anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes.

Iran's aggressive move toward self-sufficiency has been evident in IRGCN vessels like the PEYKAAP I-class coastal patrol craft and the PEYKAAP II-class missile boat. Although both classes are reportedly based on North Korean designs, Iran indigenously builds and markets them for export through Iran's Maritime Industries Group (MIG). Despite being small, measuring 17 meters, the vessels carry serious firepower. The PEYKAAP II is not only armed with torpedoes but also the Iranian-made "Kowsar" anti-ship cruise missile.

Since the late 1990s the IRGCN has worked to enhance its small patrol boat inventory by purchasing fast boats from Italian speedboat manufacturer Fabio Buzzi (FB) Design. Besides purchasing a number of models, which are based on record-breaking racing boats, the IRGCN reverse engineered the boats and began indigenously producing them. like the PEYKAAP II, the FB boats are marketed for export by MIG's parent company Defense Industries Organization (DIO). Advertised by FB Design with top speeds of 60-70 knots, these patrol boats give the IRGCN some of the fastest naval vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Besides more traditional naval craft, the IRGCN also reportedly is working on incorporating "unmanned vessels" into its inventory. Other world navies operate unmanned vessels; IRGCN adoption of this modern technology demonstrates the continued initiative of the IRGCN to increase its naval capabilities. Other examples of the IRGCN's search for innovative vessels include the GAHJAE- and KAJAMI-class semi-submersible craft that Iran reportedly purchased from North Korea in 2002. Measuring 15 meters and 20 meters respectively, these vessels are configured to carry two torpedoes each. The ability to almost entirely submerge allows the vessels to hide from detection.

no idea what this isAs of 2008 the Iranian Navy appeared poised to expand is fleet, most centered around stand-off anti-ship missile systems, mining operations, and a wide range of smaller patrol and special operations craft. Iranian authorities have described the current mission as deterrence against aggression in their coastal waters and in prominent regional waterways.

Commander of the Iranian Army Major General Ataollah Salehi said Sep 22, 2010 that the country would soon unveil new generations of destroyers, frigates and submarines. Iran would unveil and launch the second generation of Jamaran destroyers, Sina class frigates as well as a new generation of submarines, Salehi said. He made the remarks on the sidelines of a ceremony commemorating the 1980-1988 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran. Salehi warned against any act of aggression on the country's territory and said Iran could repel any attack due to its deterrent powers. "The enemy should beware that if our country is attacked we will not allow them to leave the region safely, the Iranian commander added.

In September 2011, Deputy Commander of the Iranian Navy for Research and Self-sufficiency Jihad Capitan Mansour Maqsoudlou announced that the Iranian Navy had a major development plan, dubbed as Velayat (religious leadership), and said manufacturing vessels and submarines of different class and type was on the agenda of the Navy based on the plan. Also, Iranian Navy Deputy Commander Rear Admiral Seyed Mahmoud Moussavi announced in mid June 2011 that the country plans to equip its Navy with new types of home-made submarines as part of its naval units renovation plan. "The new submarines, built by the committed Iranian experts, will join the naval combat fleet," after being tested during upcoming military exercises, he said.

With the exception of naval forces, Iran's military modernization has been largely stagnant. In reaction to OIF, Iran publicly announced implementation of an asymmetric strategy emphasizing lightly armed but numerous guerrilla forces. The only addition to Iran's air and air defense inventory is a new IRGC Air Force squadron of Su-25 close air support aircraft. An emerging theory of warfare states that the world has moved from the third generation of warfare, consisting oflarge armies moving against each other, to a fourth generation of warfare in which a smaller force would useasymmetric tactics to survive a conflict against a technologically superior enemy.

Iranian officials regularly announce alleged breakthroughs in their own domestic armament industry. In 2012 and 2013, for example, they have announced new drones, aircraft, antiaircraft missiles, and submarines, and have even promised to build an aircraft carrier. Except for the aircraft carrier and perhaps the fighter jet, there is usually some kernel of truth to the Iranian claims, although they are seldom as advanced as Iranian officials might claim. While Iran has access to the Gulf and to a sea, it lags in developing a navy worthy of sea power status, choosing instead to develop and depend on Naval Guerillas.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said 18 April 2014 that Iran has started building the Khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf) destroyer, which can carry out operations in high seas and can be used to train naval staff in international missions. He added that the construction of different types of Jamaran-class, Paykan (Arrow)-class and Bow (Kaman)-class destroyers was also underway. He said the indigenous Fateh (Conqueror) submarine will be unveiled in the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 20, 2015). Iran had so far launched different classes of indigenous advanced submarines including Fateh, Ghadir, Qaem, Nahang, Tareq and Sina.

Naval modernization is one of Iran's highest military priorities and the country continues to focus on weapons acquisition and development programs. Programs of interest include expanding inventories of existing weapons systems and increasingly sophisticated systems.

In late November 2014, Iran announced it would unveil a domestically-manufactured destroyer capable of carrying helicopters and launching missiles. This followed announced plans to unveil the country's state-of-the-art Damavand destroyer, equipped with advanced sea-launched drones as well as cruise missiles.

 




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