Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are building two naval carriers for launching armed drones and fighter helicopters, thereby diversifying their capabilities for potential attacks on the US and Israel. This project draws on lessons from Russia’s use of their drones in its war on Ukraine. The carriers, Shahid Mahdavi and Shaid Bagheri, will have decks 240m long.
Working at top speed, the ISOICO shipyard outside the Bandar Abbas port, is due to finish work on the first vessel, Shahid Mahdavi 110-3, by mid-2023. Production time was trimmed by converting to military use container ships built in 2000 for use in trade with China.
Images recorded by Western satellites show the work beginning in May 2022. By last November, the shipyard was viewed outfitting the decks of the converted vessels for the takeoff of kamikaze UAVs.
With air carriers to hand, the Guards will be acquiring a new, high-value weapon for staging offensive action from the Mediterranean and Red Sea and posing a direct and tangible threat to Israel, Gulf emirates and Egypt. Iran’s spy ship, the Makran, is posted currently in the Pacific off the coast of Venezuela. If it is complemented by a drone-bearing carrier, America’s Pacific shore may find itself under a new Iranian threat.