Iran’s drive to modernize navy faces series of setbacks

HI Sutton Photo Illustration for USNI News Satellite Image © 2021 Maxar Technologies Used with Permission

Iran’s campaign of modernization and naval self-sufficiency suffered another recent setback when the Iranian navy’s new frigate capsized in its dry dock. Last week, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps presented more than 100 of its latest local rapid attack devices – new types of missile boats, unique torpedo boats and other craft – to Bandar Abbas.

The frigate – IRIS Talayieh – fell from its blocks during the flooding of the dry dock on December 5. The walls of the dry dock prevented her from completely capsizing. It was resting at about 60 degrees.

Talayieh is the newest Moudge-class light frigate, based on the British-designed Alvand light frigates, which are the backbone of the Iranian Navy‘s surface fleet. Each Moudge-class ship was different from the previous ones. They differ in weapons, sensors, propulsion and facilities, according to images released by the Iranians. Talayieh is the most modern in appearance and has a small hangar in front of the helipad.

Accidents like this are a risk in any navy, but the Iranian navy has experienced several mishaps. The ship immediately Talayieh in the same dry dock was also the victim of a serious accident. the Konarak is a utility support vessel and patrol vessel that was struck by a anti-ship missile friend in May 2020.

The resulting fire destroyed the superstructure and nearly destroyed the ship. But she was towed to port and is now being rebuilt with an entirely new and redesigned superstructure.

In reality, Talayieh is the fifth major incident in recent years. On January 10, 2018, an indigenous frigate, IRIS Damavand, sunk after being stranded on a harbor wall during a storm. The accident destroyed the keel of the ship near the helideck.

Most recently, the veteran fleet supply vessel IRIS Kharg caught fire and sank on June 2, 2021. It was once the largest vessel in Iran’s inventory.

The IRGC has also had its own share of incidents. On July 31, 2020, a target in the shape of an IRGC-owned Nimitz-class aircraft carrier accidentally sank. It had been used as a target in dramatic mock battles, attacked by masses of small ships. The pontoon almost blocked the entrance to the port of Bandar Abbas. It was a danger to navigation for months, occasionally drifting with the tide. It was eventually dismantled, partly due to inclement weather and partly by rescue teams, and is ultimately out of the way.

New warships for the IRGC

IRGC missile boats. Photo of the IRIB

While the regular navy looked after the Talayieh accident, the IRGC exhibited a new batch of ships. The IRGC, the politico-religious branch of Iranian forces, has a growing naval component. They are most active in the current clashes between the IRGC and the Western Marines in the Persian Gulf.

Parades, in which more than 100 new boats are presented to dignitaries and cameras, are more and more frequent. The exact number of new ships should be treated with caution, but there is no doubt that this is a huge expansion and modernization. Each time new designs are seen.

The most important new model on display was the torpedo boat Ashura. This is unique in any navy, combining a rigid hull inflatable boat with lightweight torpedoes. Torpedo launchers resemble the North Korean 324mm anti-ship system. These are widely used on other IRGC boats but have not been seen on RHIBs.

Other new types displayed included four new models of small missile boats. Armed with light anti-ship missiles and machine guns, they are much smaller than most of the IRGC’s previous missile boats. Slight variations can be as much a factor of different shipyards used as opposed to differences in physical design.

IRGCN’s largest missile boat, the corvette-sized Shahid Soleimani-class catamaran, was not present. At least one of the three known hulls under construction has started sea trials. Soleimani is a much more conventional design and gives the IRGC more capabilities in line with the regular Iranian Navy.

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