Monday, April 03, 2006

Iran Posturing with New Missile?

Is Iran posturing with its current war-game “Holy Prophet”?

MilBloggers EagleSpeak and Bubblehead have some information up (here and here) on the recent test of an Iranian underwater missile “publicly” revealed during the current Iranian “Holy Prophet” naval exercises. Additionally Vigilis has a timely posting on his site about the proliferation of the Russian developed Shkval supercavitating rocket torpedoes. Underwater missile or rocket torpedo, guidance is the critical issue in the development of these weapons. The video of the missile launch, found here, is from a test platform “barge” and not an operational submarine.

But why is Iran so public with the tests of a new weapons system? The recent tests and the revealing of the domestically developed Nahang 1 mini-submarine on Iranian television were obviously intentional. Iranian Television is monitored by western news services and within minutes if not hours anything newsworthy will be broadcast internationally. The broader Iranian “Holy Prophet” naval exercise is also being packaged for domestic and international news.

With the current backdrop of international efforts to restrain Iran’s not so public nuclear ambitions, is Iran now telegraphing previous threats to close down the Strait of Hormuz and use oil as an economic weapon against the Western powers? Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says Iran is not, but if that is the case why practice doing just that and right now with a new UN deadline to stop their uranium enrichment efforts. The primary audience may be the Iranian public “lots of lookie how tough and superior we are” but there is also an attempt here to intimidate their neighbors while giving the Western naval powers pause.

The concern here is not so much these new weapons unproven capabilities as it is a strategy of implementing any new capability with an old low tech approach and old threats. This could be troubling if not for the U.S. Navy then at least to the big fat supertankers that have to navigate the narrow Strait of Hormuz choke-point. The Iranian Navy and Revolutionary Guard has hundreds of small fast lightly armed attack boats, who are trained in low tech guerrilla operations against American warships such as hit and run or swarm attacks. The bombing of the USS Cole in October of 2000 used a low tech small boat approach. If that low tech technique is coupled with the demonstrated underwater missile or a large number of the mini-submarines it could become a “killing ants with a hammer” type of problem for the U.S. Navy. Sure you can kill a lot of ants and easily but occasionally one might get through and do some damage.

A 200+ mph torpedo fired from a small craft or mini-submarine leaves very little time to react, especially for any large slow moving target navigating in restricted waters. Hopefully the new missile’s accuracy and operational range have been compromised by its speed.

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