Mystery Submarine May Reveal A Major New Capability For Iran

HI Sutton – Forbes May 29, 2020

It was only a matter of time before this happened. A new vessel, shown in public for the first time this week, is either a very small submarine or a very large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (UUV). It appears to be the latter. If correct, this will add a new dimension to Iran’s systematic warfare capability. It will also mean that Iran joins an elite club with only the U.S. Navy and Britain’s Royal Navy having such large UUVs.

The robot submarine, known as a UUV (Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle) is quite large, loosely comparable to those being prototyped for the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy. Click to enlarge

The vehicle is loosely comparable to the Boeing BA Orca extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicle (XLUUV), which is being developed for the U.S. Navy, in terms of size category and, crucially, diesel-electric propulsion, if not sophistication. The Iranian model is almost certainly cheaper!

The vessel was displayed at a ceremony to introduce over 100 new boats to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Navy (IRGC-N). This is the arm of the armed forces which is most frequently associated with Iran’s more adventurous operations. These include a series of suspected limpet mine attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf last year

The other craft paraded included missile and rocket armed fast attack craft (FACs), speed boats and underwater chariots for commando frogmen. There were even some very small wings-in-ground-effect aircraft. None of the types in the main display were actually new, although some of the individual vessels might be. But this UUV is, and it is in a different league.

Adding large UUVs could provide new ways for the IRGC-N to project power and prestige in the region. The diesel-electric propulsion will give it very long range. And its large size could make weapons integration more feasible. A large UUV used for mine laying would be relatively achievable, for example.

Two people were on the casing during the parade. One was perched on a makeshift chair using a heavy-duty remote controller to steer the vessel. The other appeared to be helping with the connection cable for the controller. This may reflect the early development phase of the vehicle, although we should not place too much weight on this. Parades are often done differently from operations.

The absence of a protective sail where a crew person can stand while it is on the surface indicates that the craft is not intended to be crewed.

Many IRGC-N craft appear garage-built, and this UUV is no different. On the side it proclaims “we can do it” in the Farsi language (ما می توانیم). But it does appear to use a cylindrical steel hull which is essentially the same as a submarine. Iran builds many midget submarines so this is well within their industrial capabilities.

What may be more challenging is the control and automation. But Iran has long experience with remotely-controlled explosive boats, such as those used in Yemen. We will see whether it enters production, and whether similar designs show. up in Yemen.


6 responses to “Mystery Submarine May Reveal A Major New Capability For Iran”

  1. The length indicates this is a one strike/use weapon to possible target US carriers and it’s support group. Plenty of room up front for the weapon.

  2. I wonder how many of the Obama Billions went into R&D for this ?

  3. The 5 Tankers that reached Venezuela was significant considering the Monroe Doctrine.

    During tanker wars, the role of speed-boats became clear. For every 2 tankers or trade ships Iran lost, Iran destroyed 3, with sinking of the Bridgeton being the height of it!

    IRGC has developed 3 main classes/roles of fast boats. The choice of material, surface contact, type of engines and weapons are important to achieve best role optimization, for example one type of body is good in wavy waters another is better for speed, another for maneuverability. There are many speedboats used in racing however they are useless for military purposes. All IRGC fast-boats can operate in Sea State 3 to 4 and are capable of operating weapons and launching their torpedoes and missiles.

    105 knots or about 195 KM/h for the fastest Seraj boats, 60-80 knots which is about 110-150 KM/h for the Torpedo and Missile launching boats. US navy has been trying to make fast boats but they are not well balanced for their roles and certainly not as fast and maneuverable. The Tondar class can launch two missiles from 300 KM away and has 60 knot speed! The Zoljanah class has 30 KM sonar and can engage submarines too. The coolest one I think is the Zolfaghar!

  4. Within not to long, there will be an ornament of humiliation, in form of a massive hangar ship, sitting in the Hormuz canal.. The Israhell drones aredumb enough to go just that far justifying an attach, that will also fail.

  5. During tanker wars, US navy decided to put sand bags on the edge of the ships and put soldiers with heavy machine guns around, because all that was on those ships had no effective use against swarming fast-boats.

    There is a big misconception among ordinary people, they think cannons on those ships can easily take out fast-boats! The truth is those will have to shoot a few times to be able to randomly hit a floating stationary target the size of smallest fishing boats, IRGCs fast boats are just too small when 10 KM away and just too fast when in 1 KM range! Add unpredictable wavy waters and targeting will become harder. Cannons don’t have very fast rate of fire and they are ineffective in very close range maybe some kind of newly designed ammunition that explodes on water-contact could become more effective, so ultimately the main defense against swarming fastboats in close range is just machine guns and small arms. What if they could engage from 30 KM away with torpedoes and missiles? The slow speed and low maneuverability of the large ships make them easy targets and without helicopters to support, larger ships are totally defenseless.

    Please note that larger ships have very vulnerable spots. Destroying the command tower, or just its radar will render the entire ship mission-useless. The NIMITZ class carriers have a 3D radar located on the bridge that is linked to all defensive systems.

    Look up aircraft carrier disasters in history, specially Forrestal incident in which a small Zuni rocket that just has 20Kg of explosives was mishandled and accidentally dropped and the whole deck caught fire with multiple explosions the air-craft carrier almost sank! Those fighter jets on the deck are very vulnerable so small rockets launched from a fastboat like Seraj is not a joke. During tanker wars fast boats used ordinary RPGs effectively to damage oil-tankers. Not to mention ballistic missiles like PG with cluster-warheads or 650Kg warheads that are specifically designed to vertically attack air-craft carriers right from above. Missiles like Kowsar have the latest anti-jamming modules, they can also change target if for any reason they miss the first target, they come in two versions, radar based and TV based with the later being totally undetectable. Hezbollah destroyed Israel’s Sa’ar 5-class corvettes with Kowsar missiles. So essentially anti-missiles systems from older Chaff to advanced Phalanx Turrets and even RAM are ineffective.

    IRGC navy commander has said that although they have capable radars and drones to track all ships, and enough types of missiles to be able to attack targets from land/shore, however they insist on having fast boats to the keep the visual contact! US ships must “see” that these fastboats are everywhere and also nowhere!

    Not to forget the remote controlled rocket-launching fast boats that are can also do suicidal attacks; and soon the remote controlled submarines, these make IRGC operations much easier and safer. Unlike IRGC, Iran’s regular army has built larger subs and frigates and are planning to make bigger destroyers, etc…

    “There will be no war, and we won’t negotiate.” Iran’s Supreme Leader
    5 oil tankers that reached Venezuela were backed by Iran’s missile deterrence.

  6. Must Watch… (Iran documentary on fast boats; links have timestamp so they should start from the correct time):

    US navy claims it can shoot and hit small targets with moving speeds of below 20 knots using cannons. IRGC navy commander says he even doubts that! IRGCs fast boats are just too small when further away than 10 Km and just too fast when closer!
    ( Time: 39:00

    Hoot Torpedo: ( Time: 37:00
    Zolfaghar Class ( Time: 7:15
    Zoljanah Class ( Time 8:48
    Tondar Class ( Time 16:11
    Seraj-1 ( Time: 11:35
    Remote controlled fast boat ( Time: 22:55
    PG anti-ship ballistic missile ( Time: 25:20