Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Range of a few hundred miles, 20 submerged, huh? Seems to me I remember the Srait of Hormuz to be really close to Bandar Abbas, quite noisy (high Le), and shallow ->>>ideally suited for them to attack us (e.g. traffic separation scheme -> ships are constrained to a nice 1 - 2 nm wide lane-> they know where we are, lotsa reverb, etc.). Big threat, no. Threat? Could be.......

1/16/2006 12:03 PM

Blogger CDR Salamander said...

Me? I see a nice target. Even a helo guy might get a kill on this guy. Hey, the way things go today - that might be worth a Silver Star - Bronze Star at least........

You had to say "Whiskey" didn't you. Lets review: Ohhh. Mmmmm. Conventional Type 1. Whisky, Zulu, Golf. Type 2. Uniform, Juliet, and Foxtrot. Type 3. Tango. Type 4. Kilo.....did I get that right? Mmmmm. Nukes. Type 1 the HEN boats, Hotel, Echos, November. Type 2 were Yankees and Deltas. Type 3 were the Victor triplets, and Charlies. Type 4 was Typhoon, Oscar, Sierra, and Akula. Type 5 Papa? Type 6 Mike? I think I got that right. Man it has been awhile. I still like hotdogpack, liponstack, knifeinback, its a Krivak.


1/16/2006 1:51 PM

Blogger M. Simon said...

I posted a bit about your estimate of Iranian Armrd forces morale and the mini-subs.

Hope you like it.

I'm just a surface skimmer (Nuke RO) but you underwater types miss out on riding a ship through a typhoon. My favorite time aboard. Ulimited food on the mess decks (cold cock and cheese)and most of the crew too sick to eat.

I bunked in the forward area of the ship. The ride was excellent.

I did have a queasy stomach the first three days at sea out of home port. After that I got my sea legs.

Now the old girl (the Bainbridge) is in the bone yard. Boo hoo.

1/16/2006 4:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior cut it's teeth on cutting down Iranian minelayers in the Straits of Hormuz in the late 80's early 90's. Looks like these wee subbies are going to offer another chance for the Army to garner some kills.

1/16/2006 9:35 PM

Blogger submandave said...

Coming to this show a bit late, but the most-likely employment of any Iranian SSI is SOF insertion. There are several islands in the SOH and vicinity whose ownership is under contention. The revolutionary guard has always wanted the ability to rapidly take and/or resupply these islands. This is not to discount the value of or danger posed by their torpedoes, but as you noted these are more than likely side-saddle mounts with no reload capability (like the DPRK Sango).

As a general note on IRIN capabilities, I would caution not to underestimate them lest they get a few lucky hits in early and shock American sensibilities. I distinctly remember how surprised we were after they got their first Kilo and promptly refit and brought their old P-3s out for ASW training, a capability that had previously been assessed as lost.

1/17/2006 10:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just how state of the art is necessary to blow a hole in a VLCC and close a strategic chokepoint?

1/17/2006 12:56 PM

Blogger Chap said...

M. Simon: Been there done that. Every freakin' year we'd ride out some damn typhoon on the surface in a round bottom boat because we didn't have the water to dive. Not quite a gator flat bottom but damned close, with no time to gain sea legs beforehand. Oog.

Dave's assessment is a lot closer to mine, having worked with navies that have minisubs and use them better than we do. SOF, torps against shipping, mines, I&W. Lots of nasty things you can do in that geography with a tiny piece of nothing boat, particularly if your opponent suffers disproportionally. This craft type also has some characteristics better left unmentioned here.

In spades a two of spades still trumps an ace of hearts, and this thing is still a boat. Don't write 'em off without at least a consideration of their capabilities.

1/17/2006 7:35 PM

Blogger Chap said...

Oh, one more thing...

A guy my size trying to lock out in that thing had better get the tourmaline's small in there.

1/17/2006 7:38 PM

Blogger DWPittelli said...

Given Iran's strategic need to be able to deny oil exports from the Persian Gulf (in case we deny them to Iran), aren't these subs virtually guaranteed to succeed at such a mission? I.e., won't they be able to blow up a tanker or two in that narrow waterway? Wouldn't such attacks mean no more tankers coming through for some time? Won't the subs be quite stealthy given how little speed they'd need to use pre-attack?

1/19/2006 3:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

DWPittelli is the only one that gets it. US warships will not be the target of Iranian subs; that job will be left up to a missle boats. Fat, slow, and unprotected oil tankers are a different story.

5/18/2006 3:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could they tow a nuke? And if so, how close could a suicide crew get it to, say, one of our carrier groups?

That's how I'd evaluate it as a threat.

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