New Iranian craft may be based on North Korean SES design.
We do not know its name or designation. This is unusual because Iran’s Navy takes great pride in its ability to build ships and submarines. Programs are vaunted in the press as achievements of self sufficiency.
It has been observed at the Shahid Darvishi yard near Bandar Abbas where some of Iran’s higher profile warships are built. These include a massive IRINS Makran forward base ship, the Fateh Class submarine and the latest Mowj class frigates. So why so quiet?
The new craft appears to be a catamaran, meaning that it has two hulls side by side. But its proportions also suggests that it may be a Surface Effect Ship (SES). This would be completely new territory for Iranian ship builders and may point to a new class of missile boat.
Catamarans themselves are not new in Iran. The IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) already operates a catamaran warship, the IRIS Shaheed Nazeri. Despite getting publicity for her distinctive appearance, her service status is unclear. Currently she is back at the builders. With its long slender catamaran hulls it is completely different from this new vessel however. The two vessels do not appear at all related, even being built at different shipyards. And it is unclear whether this new vessel will be for the IRGC or the Iranian Navy.
Surface effect ships combine the features of a catamaran and a hovercraft. Essentially they are a catamaran hull with a skirt at the front and rear. They can use both air cushion and conventional (screw or waterjet) propulsion, and some have hydrofoils. This allows for high performance and makes a stable firing platform.
The prototypical SES warship is the Royal Norwegian Navy’s Skjold class. These large patrol craft have stealthy lines and are armed with a 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid cannon and eight NSM anti-ship missiles.
It seems unlikely that the Skjold class is the main inspiration however. Iran’s defense partner North Korea North Korea has been developing SES for around 20 years. They have built a number of designs, mostly as missile boats. Many feature apparently stealth-influenced sloping hulls and superstructures. The Iranian craft appears more like earlier North Korean variants however, with less stealthy lines.
It is still early in the life of this new vessel. But given the Iranian regimes eagerness to report new projects we may be treated to an unveiling soon. That would an answer many current questions, not least the degree of North Korean influence. And also whether the new vessel will be a missile boat, which seems most likely. For the moment, patience is needed.