Iranian Mini-Sub Update
Last May, I opined about the mini-sub the Iranians were building; I wasn't impressed. From what we know, it's basically a copy of some North Korean mini-subs, and therefore presents no real threat to alerted Western warships. They apparently have 2 or 3 mini-subs that they'd previously bought (in addition to their three Russian-built Kilo class boats); the only big deal is that the Iranians are building subs themselves now.
In December, some reports came out that the mini-sub was finished, and the Iranians were showing it to the press.
I haven't seen anything official, but it looks like nutcase Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, currently in the news for planning a Holocaust-denial conference (among other things) might have visited the new mini-submarine, INS Ghadir, recently. A thread over at Free Republic (kind of a Democratic Underground for the right) had some pictures posted of Ahmadinejad visiting a mini-sub; the reason I think these pictures might be new (they come from three different Iranian sources) is that one of the hot-linked pictures has a filename indicating that it's a 2006 picture. Two other pictures (showing how small the sub really is) are posted here:
I know that everyone is kind of worried about Iran right now -- Chapomatic has a good post up on the subject -- but I just can't get excited about any threat from the Iranian submarine force to U.S. or allied warships. Can't say why (and no one should in the comments either); let's just call it a "gut feeling".
My experience with the Iranian military is fairly limited -- two deployments to the Gulf. Still, from what I've read, and from my discussions with "allied" officers at the Coalition Village at CENTCOM, I've come to the conclusion that, if the radicals in charge of Iran ever pick a fight with the U.S., we're likely to see fighting between the regular Iranian military and the Revolutionary Guard break out. The Revolutionary Guard are the ones who "believe hard" -- you really can't reason with them. The regular Iranian military, though, seems to be more level-headed, and knows that Allah won't be all that's needed to protect their country against infidel bombing. Like all professional warriors, they don't want to die for nothing. I have no data here -- it's just a feeling.
Anyway, back to the subs. The mini-subs probably are being operated by the Revolutionary Guards (the Kilos belong to the regular Navy), so they might be happy to run suicide missions. Their torpedos aren't going to be state-of-the-art, though, so I doubt they'd be able to hit an alerted Western warship. Posters over at the Free Republic thread seemed to worry that because the boat is diesel-electric, that it'll be very quiet. Quieting technology is fairly big -- that's not gonna fit into a hull that size. Remember that WWII boats were diesel-electric, and the primitive passive sonar sets on surface ships didn't have much problem picking them up. These things are probably at about the same level of technology as the old Russian Whiskey-class boats. They have a range of maybe a few hundred miles, and probably less than a dozen miles submerged. Plus, they'll have inexperienced Revolutionary Guardsmen driving them. Not really a threat.
Bell-ringer 2100 16 Jan: Former surface nuke M. Simon, who was one of the first bloggers to permalink me, has his own thoughts on the dynamics of the Iranian military establishment.