Iran Extends Submarine Range to Hit Tel Aviv and US Mediterranean Targets
To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click <a href="http://www.DEBKA-Net-Weekly.com?ref=001″>HERE.
debkafile‘s military sources report the Iranian Navy is in the process of deploying two submarine fleets – mini-subs in Persian Gulf waters for attacks on US shipping and Gulf oil facilities, and the long-range Kilo class sub of Russian, Chinese and home manufacture, for long-range targets in the Mediterranean, such as the US Sixth Fleet and Israel coastal towns, primarily Tel Aviv.
Iran’s defense minister Mostafa Najiar announced Tuesday, Nov. 27, that a new Iranian-built submarine would be delivered to the navy Wednesday. He offered no details of the new item. However, two days earlier, Iran’s navy chief. Adm. Habibollah Sayyari disclosed that the new submarine would operate in Persian Gulf waters in the Strait of Hormuz area. He also declared that Tehran has no intention of blocking the Strait in a flare-up with the US military.
debkafile‘s military sources note that Iran’s strategic thinking has undergone a change. Hitherto, the rulers of Tehran viewed the blockage of the narrow waterway to shipping that carries one-third of the world’s oil needs, as its most effective reprisal for a military attack. They have revised their thinking for two reasons: First, Iran has made great strides in expanding its influence in Gulf oil states and an assault on their sole source of revenue would win more enemies than friends.
Second, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly 326 revealed Nov. 16, Tehran has developed a new capability to deploy in the Mediterranean Kilo class submarines armed with the Russian-made “Sizzler” Klub-S (3M54) missile. This missile can be shot from underwater at a range of 300 kilometers and has a powerful 450-kilogram warhead. It is launched from the submarine’s 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes.
This possibility was outlined by an authoritative Iranian security figure, the spokesman-cum-commentator at Iran’s defense ministry, Gen. Reza Naghdi, on Nov. 12. He said that if Iran were attacked, its navy – and its submarine fleet in particular – could come close enough to “reach an Israeli coastal target” from the sea.
Iran’s submarine fleet consists of 6 Kilo class craft, of which only three or four are serviceable. Another 12 submarines of the same class are on order from China, but there is no information that any of them has entered service or even been delivered.
Western naval experts say that Iran will need to keep all of its three or four operational subs close at hand, in case of an American attack.
The Iranian navy has none to spare for other arenas, unless a strategic decision is taken in Tehran to send a sub or two to the Mediterranean to hit American or Israeli naval shipping or the Israeli coast, even at the expense of its Gulf resources.
The Revolutionary Guards Corps is known to have built a large fleet of mini-subs and special marine units equipped with fast boats for deployment in the Persian Gulf. They might partly free up the larger Kilo subs for this option.
It may be recalled that Iran’s first intervention in the Israel-Hizballah war in South Lebanon last year was by sea. On July 14, 2006, Iranian naval officers helped Hizballah shoot a shore-to-ship C-802 missile from a Lebanese army base, crippling the Israeli Hanit missile ship. The incident is still considered the most damaging suffered by Israel in that war.
A month later, Iran began experimenting with firing the Sizzler missiles from its Kilo-class submarines.
The Kilo class submarine’s displacement is up to 4,000 tons submerged. It is 74 meters long, has a maximum speed of up to 30 knots surfaced, diving depth of 300 meters and range of more than 12,100 km. The Kilo carries a crew of 52 sailors and, depending on the type, is armed with six to eight 533 mm torpedo tubes, 24 mines and air defense missiles. The Kilo submarines’ quiet engines enable them to appear and disappear like wraiths, winning them the name of Black Hole from the US Navy.