Iran’s Military Strength Is Riddled with Deficiencies

The British ministry of defense was not impressed by the military strutting in the last few months by the Iranian army and its elite Revolutionary Guards, or by the frequency of their military exercises.

A special research project was therefore commissioned for a hard look at the substance behind the high-sounding Great Prophet Maneuvers One and Two, the Zolfaghar Blow, and the combat tactics and new weapons systems they exhibited.

Most recently, on March 8, the Iranian Malek Ashtar Industrial University and Submarine Research Center unveiled a submarine dubbed Nahang (whale). The vessel was touted as an advanced military submarine with proven capabilities which had completed 700 hours of mission in the harsh conditions of the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman.

Nahang was described as a purely Iranian product following ten years of research with no foreign components.

The British analysts’ report was submitted at the end of February.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that the description of the submarine is typical of Tehran’s military posturing. When asked March 14 how his government would react to an American attack, Iran’s national security adviser Ali Larijani declared confidently: “Any military action would have a military reply in return.”

The British experts question the Islami Republic’s ability to make such a military reply to an American or Israel attack. They doubt that its military forces are ready for any kind of warfare.

The four main conclusions reached are lethal for the prestige of Iran’s military and Revolutionary Guards alike.

1. The combative-sounding maneuvers and troop movements ranging from one end of Iran to the other were defensive in nature. Neither the armed forces nor the Revolutionary Guards are capable of executing offensive operations.

2. Every military unit, with the exception of a few crack Revolutionary Guards contingents, is seriously under-equipped lacking the military and technological gear current in modern warfare.


Poorly equipped and untrained units


3. Most units are untrained and would have no notion how to go about war combat.

4. Almost all the so-called new weapons put through their paces in the latest Iranian maneuvers, including the different types of missiles, the jet fighters, the military hovercraft and the submarines, are either non-operational or Russian systems which failed in Russian army tests and were sold off to Iran as scrap.

The British researchers concluded that the Iranian war games were staged as propaganda exercises to mislead the world into believing in the might of the Islamic Revolutionary republic.

In particular, the two Great Prophet exercises were meant as a demonstration of Iranian strength in the Persian Gulf’s bottleneck Strait of Hormuz, and a reminder of the vulnerability of the shipping navigating the narrow passageway with almost a quarter of the world’s oil needs aboard.

While laying claim to state-of-the-art technology superior to Western military products, Iran’s arsenals are stuffed with obsolete, non-threatening Chinese, North Korean and Russian designs, and home-made copies of antiquated products sold to pre-revolutionary Iran from other sources.

One example is the Sa’eqeh (Thunderbolt), which Iranian aviation industry has cobbled together out of old US-made F-5s and improved with a new dual vertical stabilizer. The plane, which demonstrated a degree of Iranian industrial skill in enhancing obsolete jets, was displayed on bombing runs.

Among the dozens of rockets and missiles exhibited in Iran’s war games was a Shahab-2, whose cluster-bomb warhead was presented as containing up to 1,400 bomblets. It was also announced that the Shahab-3 ballistic missile (1,000-1,200 km range) was tested for the first time in a live exercise, together with the Zolfaqar-73, the Scud B, the Fath-110 and the Zelzal.

However, DEBKA-Net-Weeklys military sources say that no objective observer saw the actual Shehab-3 test – and certainly not the Shehab-4. The only proven firings were performed by the Shehab-2 and the Fath-110, both of which are outdated and not accurate. It is therefore impossible to establish whether or not the Iranian Shehab-3 does live up to Tehran’s claim of carrying a multiple-bomb warhead.


Shehab-2 painted in Shehab-3 colors


The British researchers argue that if it was true, Iran would have exhibited the missile in action.

They have also dissected Iranian footage of the simultaneous firing of a large number of rockets and conclude that this effect was contrived by clever editing of the video film.

Furthermore, the researchers noticed that in every exercise, Iranian commanders used the same small number of missile- launchers again and again, indicating a severe shortage.

Iranian missiles are color-graded according to type.

Shehab-3 for instance is painted red and brown; Shehab 2, green. After close attention to the film released by Tehran, the British analysts discovered that the putative Shehab-3s whose firings were recorded, were in fact Shehab-2 missiles disguised by a coat of red and brown paint to fool viewers.

A final example of Iran’s deceit about its missiles is seen in an announcement by an Iranian aerospace official reported on Iran’s state television Web site on Feb. 25:

“Iran has successfully launched its first space missile made by Iranian scientists,” said the head of Iran’s aerospace research center, Mohsen Bahrami. He reported the missile was built by his center in cooperation with the defense and science ministries.

No details were offered.

The British researchers are not surprised at the lack of published detail.

The proud announcement referred to the launch of a rocket built by the students of Tehran University’s aeronautics department, such as are constructed in hundreds of university departments around the world. It would be ridiculous to attach any military significance to this primitive projectile.

Of Iran’s entire arsenal of fighter jets and missiles, the British judge that only one aircraft poses any hazard to western armies, the low-level Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” attack craft. Smaller than the American F-111, which it resembles, the Fencer compares with two Western interdictors, the F-111 and the British Tornado; it is faster and performs better over rough terrain, but its avionics and attacks systems are les advanced.

Iran’s military hovercraft, the Kadr 1, which is claimed to double in function as a speedboat and airplane, and its fast underwater missile, said to be capable of striking ships as large as aircraft carriers and oil tankers, also came in for close examination by the British experts. They concluded in both cases that the weapons were dumped by the Russians as scrap after being tested and rejected by the Russian navy.

Iranian workshops simply repainted them with their new colors and paraded them as part of their operational arsenal.

The Kilo submarines, though earmarked for deployment in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, are most of the time in dry dock for repairs. The Iranian navy finds them very hard to handle, according to the British analysts.

But even these experts were taken aback when they discovered the size of Iran’s tank force – all told only 500 in service with the army and the Revolutionary Guards combined, no more than little Jordan’s tank strength.

Anxious to repair these deficiencies, Iran is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weeklys military and intelligence sources to have approached Beijing with an offer of $6 billion to spend on Chinese military equipment and technology, provided they are up to the minute and the best in the Chinese armory.

Beijing has not yet responded. Our sources fully expect a favorable reply to be accompanied by a stipulation for remuneration to include concessions from Tehran for Chinese firms to develop Iran’s oil fields and industry.

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