What we know about Iran’s recently unveiled catamaran warship

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, or IRGCN, has unveiled a new catamaran missile corvette which is the first ship in the Iranian Navy equipped with Vertical Launch System (VLS) airframes. It’s the second catamaran-style vessel of significant size to join the IRGCN fleet, but the service says this latest addition is packed with firepower, unlike its predecessor.

Named after the late IRGC General Qassem Soleimani, whom the US military killed in a drone strike in Iraq in 2020 and whose other weapon systems Iran has named in the past, the Shahid Soleimani The warship was officially unveiled at a ceremony in the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on Monday.

The IRGCNs Shahid Soleimani at the inauguration ceremony on Monday. Credit: Iranian government via Fars News Agency

Shahid Soleimani was built at the Shahid Mahallati shipyard in Bushehr, Iran, and satellite imagery of the first constructions began to surface in March of last year. At that time, little information had been officially released about the ship. The IRGCNs Shahid Nazeri catamaran, commissioned in 2016, was often used in early reports as a reference for the future Shahid Soleimani because it was at least known that the ship would also be a catamaran designed with narrow and widely spaced hulls.

Shahid Nazeri. Credit: Iran State Media

This new design is a much more solid, warship-like and serious warship than the lanky Shahid Nazeriwith Shahid Soleimani also being larger.

Mentioned in Iranian state media Press TVthe cover of the event was additional information regarding the “stealth” role that the IRGCN claims Shahid Soleimani will fill. “Radar evasion” technology intended to allow the ship to achieve a lower radar cross-section was highlighted. Iran is notorious for making stealth claims about its ships in the past, and there isn’t much credible information available to help back up those claims. While the ship may have low observable design cues, the exact impact they will actually have on her radar signature is debatable. Iran also says the new vessel will have a higher level of maneuverability than other vessels of its size and will be equipped with four domestically developed engines for rapid deployment and durability during long-duration missions.

The inauguration ceremony of Shahid Nazeri in 2016. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

After the inauguration on Monday, Press TV also reported on the range of capabilities claimed by the IRGCN Shahid Soleimani will offer. Although it is necessary to remember that the details they provided may be distorted in order to strengthen the performance specifications of the ship, the information could always help to better understand what these capabilities could become. Begin, Shahid Soleimaniwho According to Iranian media, the largest combat warship of the IRGCN in its fleet would be the first Iranian vessel to be equipped with a Vertical Launch System (VLS).

What appear to be six easily identifiable VLS cells could be seen in aerial photos of the ship taken during the unveiling ceremony as well as concept renders that were released separately months before the event. Additional covered areas on each edge of the superstructure can also be seen, but the exact configuration of all VLS cell sets and their precise number under locks are not immediately clear.

Iranian media later insisted that by Shahid Soleimani The VLS is designed to fire unspecified surface-to-air missiles (SAM) with a supposed range of about 93 miles. Independent defense analysts on Twitter, like @AmirlGM, have already started to speculate on what exactly these SAMs might or might not be. He pointed out that some Iranian types of Sayyad SAMs, especially if upgraded, could potentially reach that 93-mile range shared by Iranian media, because the Sayyad-2, an American-engineered first-generation standard missile Conversely, has a max range of around 74 miles while the newer Sayyad-4 can supposedly reach up to 124 miles.

It is also worth considering that the cells could possibly be designed for a missile that Iran has not yet unveiled or has not yet been conceptualized in general. It is also possible that the long range SAMs are not even used and instead shorter range SAMs are fired from the VLS cells.

As noted earlier, the larger hatches attached to each edge of the corvette’s superstructure are also worth highlighting, as some Iranian media have suggested they could house larger weapons, such as attack cruise missiles. earthly. However, no specific mention of missile types or the exact number of missiles that will be loaded under these larger hatches was made. It’s also possible that these larger hatches house a number of smaller cells also designed for SAMs, though this prospect is just as unconfirmed as the others. It could very well be that they are not even VLS cells at all.

The Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, however, at least confirmed the existence of the VLS when talk to Press TV.

“This is the first warship developed by the Islamic Republic of Iran which is equipped with the vertical launch, short and medium range air defense systems,” Bagheri said, adding that the ship’s combat system is powered by native software. designed with the ability to detect different types of targets and assign them to the ship’s weapons.

The IRGCNs Shahid Soleimani at the inauguration ceremony on Monday. Credit: Iranian government via Fars News Agency

Perhaps the bigger question is how a missile would be guided or how the ship will detect targets. There is no evidence that it sports a radar capable of independently supporting aerial engagements, especially not at long range. It’s possible it hasn’t been installed yet, but there isn’t a lot of real estate on the ship to do so.

Other weapons that would equip Shahid Soleimani include box launchers capable of firing six anti-ship missiles, a single-barrel 30mm autocannon with an electro-optical sight for fire control, and what appear to be four 20mm rotary cannons that can be operated by crew members or remotely. As for anti-ship armament, what appear to be cartridges for two different sizes of missiles could be seen at the unveiling and were identified accordingly as four Ghadir anti-ship cruise missiles and two smaller ones. anti-ship cruise missiles believed to be of the Nasr type.

During the inauguration ceremony, the IRGCN also demonstrated Shahid Soleimanito transport helicopters after a Bell-412 plane was filmed landing atop the ship’s large helipad. Iranian media reports that vertical take-off and landing craft, namely unmanned aerial systems, will also be able to take off from this heliport. The ability to launch and control drones from ships and submarines at sea was recently demonstrated by the Iranian Navy during the introduction of its new “drone carrier division”, further highlighting the country’s progress in the development of national weapons intended to better execute asymmetric operations.

Press TV noted that “sophisticated” but unnamed reconnaissance, electronic warfare and radar systems Shahid Soleimanias well as “self-protection systems, modern communication and telecommunications equipment, various types of encoders and data links”. However, it is distinctly difficult to substantiate these claims at present, with only an exterior view of the ship having been offered during the unveiling ceremony.

Regardless of her actual capabilities, the ship is certainly an impressive addition to the IRGCN fleet, which is primarily focused on smaller speedboats and swarming tactics. Press TV described one of the ship’s missions as escorting and protecting IRGCN fast boats in the Persian Gulf where the IRGCN primarily operates, and we’ve seen its predecessor used in the same way in the past .

Shahid Soleimani will likely act as some kind of command and control ship to coordinate the activities of drones and/or smaller IRGCN ships, as it also has the ability to transport and launch fast attack boats from its stern, but its Premium punch is something Iran’s aging navy is likely to be quite jealous of.

The IRGCNs Shahid Soleimani missile catamaran during its unveiling ceremony. Credit: Iranian government via Fars News Agency

Although Iran has not hinted at whether or not more such examples will be produced, Shahid SoleimaniThe introduction certainly underscores the country’s growing desire to strengthen its maritime capabilities.

While Iran’s claims should always be taken with a grain of salt, this ship is quite impressive and the fact that it is an IRGC asset means it is more likely to be used aggressively than its regular naval counterparts. Its capabilities, size and relative sophistication could also very well see it operating away from home, potentially taking place in the Red Sea, which could be problematic for this already stretched body of water.

We’ll just have to wait and see not just where the futuristic-looking ship ends up, but what exactly it will look like when it enters operational service.

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