The Mil & Aero Blog
Monday, December 3, 2007
  Too early to declare Iran a regional submarine threat
Posted by John Keller

Most of us view reports of Iranian nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development with concern. I don't see the potential emergence of Iran as a nuclear threat to be in any way positive in terms of Middle Eastern and global political stability.

Now comes another report of Iranian arms development, which might be worrisome to U.S. military experts and their allies.

It seems that Iran is unveiling not only a domestically manufactured destroyer surface warship, but an Iranian-made attack submarine, as well. Both were to have been unveiled last week -- a Ghadir-class submarine, and a Jamaran-class destroyer. This is according to the The Jerusalem Post on 25 Nov.:

Days ahead of the Annapolis peace conference, Iran flexed its military muscles on Saturday, announcing plans to unveil a new homemade submarine and navy destroyer later this week. Iranian Naval Commander Admiral Habib Sayyari said Saturday that the navy would launch a homemade destroyer called Jamaran and a submarine called Ghadir on November 28. Ghadir is a religious holiday which marks the day Shi'ite Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon and confirmed Ali ibn Abi Talib's appointment as his successor. Iran has boasted in the past that its new Ghadir-class submarine could not be detected and was capable of firing missiles and torpedoes simultaneously.

I don't think it's time to panic yet, however. It looks suspiciously like the new Ghadir-class submarine is a mini submarine of questionable endurance, armament, and stealth. I saw a few pictures -- and even a video -- involving the submarine on the Internet, and it doesn't look all that fearsome. I could be wrong, however, and I'm keeping an eye on this. Bear in mind that Iran already has three decades-old Soviet-era Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines in unknown states of repair.

U.S. Navy forces are designed to detect and counter the world's most advanced surface and subsurface threats, so I don't see an imminent new naval threat emerging in the Middle East, yet anyway.

This isn't to say, however, that U.S. naval forces don't occasionally let things slide. Little more than a year ago a Chinese attack submarine surfaced within sight of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific. It's not clear if naval forces in the area had detected the presence of the Chinese submarine, but nonetheless the Chinese could claim a clear propaganda victory.

I'm a big proponent of keeping U.S. antisubmarine warfare forces strong and up to date. It wouldn't take long for nearly any undetected hostile submarine to wreak havoc on U.S. naval forces and international shipping. Iran might not be a serious submarine threat today, but they may be heading in that direction.
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