IRGC’s Chief Commander Major General Hossein Salami was the chief guest of the event, which hosted high-profile military officials.
Speaking on the occasion of the event, General Salami underlined the benefits of the high-speed capabilities of the new boats:
“This is the seventh delivery of such vessels. Their speed has climbed from 55 knots to 75 and 90 knots, with the next stage reaching 110 knots. The boats are equipped with missiles and rockets and are capable of operating efficiently under the IRGC’s indigenous radar network.”
These vessels are expected to conduct naval and logistical operations in the southern waterways of the Arvand River in Khuzestan to Chabahar in Sistan and Baluchestan province, specifically to oppose any threats in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
Last May, the IRGC held a similar event to commission 112 manned/unmanned speed boats capable of launching rockets and missiles. In this year’s procurement, it is observed that some of the boats are armed with lightweight torpedoes.
The IRGC describes these vessels as having a very good hydrodynamic capability, high speed, suitable maneuverability, and a very low radar cross-section, while high offensive power has a significant impact on improving the IRGC navy’s combat capability in the Persian Gulf region and the Strait of Hormuz.
Author’s opinion: Iran’s Defence Doctrine
Iranian naval doctrine is geared towards engaging in marine guerilla warfare against a technologically superior adversary (perhaps the US Navy, or other regional states). Iran has created a strategy to keep opposing navies out of the Persian Gulf, focused on the strategically crucial Strait of Hormuz, which can be described as a chokepoint.
IRGC opened a new naval base in the city of Sirik last year. The new base is located near the shore of the Persian Gulf and provides better surface and aerial control over the Strait.
Iran’s Gulf defense plan is multi-layered, requiring the simultaneous use of air, ground, and naval weapons to saturate the enemy’s defense systems. This tactic aims to deter opponents by posing a significant threat to them, and it makes it impossible to penetrate the Gulf without incurring a significant loss of combatants. As a result, the Iranians have acquired a huge armament of asymmetric naval equipment, including naval mines, midget submarines, hundreds of armed speed boats, anti-ship cruise missiles on land and sea, UCAVs, and so on.
Swarm attacks utilizing manned/unmanned speed boats can act as a backbone for deterring opposing surface assets, and Iran frequently displays its capabilities in this area with speedboat parades. Iran conducts military drills in the Gulf and elsewhere in the country on a regular basis to boost the readiness of its armed forces.
Swarm attack threat of Iran
Analysts and naval enthusiasts may find it amusing to compare a speed boat to a destroyer. However, evaluating the capabilities of assets on paper can lead us astray when doing a real-world examination. Because naval warfare is not a cage fight, it is more appropriate to compare force compositions and make assessments based on compatibility with the geographical location, performance of weapons and sensors in the area, and, of course, naval tactics that can be adapted in littoral seas.
Because of their small radar cross-section, high speed, and agile maneuverability, fast boats are unlikely to be struck with standard gunfire. These boats, however, can be engaged by guided missiles, and the probability of a strike improves when laser-directed munitions are used. A single boat rarely poses a substantial threat to a combatant, but what happens when a ship or task force is attacked by a swarm of dozens of similar speed boats?
Swarm attacks are high-risk, coordinated assaults that sometimes target numerous targets. They are extremely difficult to defend for a variety of reasons, one of which is simply numbers and redundancy; if there are so many spread-out, yet fast-approaching small boats, deck-mounted ship guns or overhead assets such as drones or helicopters may struggle to destroy enough approaching targets at once. Because of sensor and weapon saturation, radar tracking issues, limited time for kill evaluation, and automatic sensor weapon allocation issues, it is nearly impossible to counter all of the targets.
Even with modern sensors and armaments, a warship can only engage a few of these boats. Even if a destroyer group assisted by naval helicopters can cover more boats, some boats will be able to penetrate the destroyer’s or task group’s vital area. The previous boats were outfitted with tiny missiles capable of causing limited damage, while some of the newer ones are equipped with two torpedoes capable of neutralizing a frigate.
Several approaches to defeat swarm threat
For several years, the United States Navy has been exploring swarm countermeasures. The Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) were outfitted with Surface-to-Surface Missile Modules (SSMMs), allowing them to launch Lockheed Martin-built AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles. However, because these ships can fight three or four boats at once, new tactics are designed to overcome the swarm attack danger.
To successfully resist swarm attacks, a layered defense strategy is required. The incoming assault boats should be destroyed before they are within the effective range of their weapons. As a result, defeating this threat requires a multi-pronged approach that includes unmanned systems (including UAVs, USVs, and loitering munitions), air assets, guided missiles, laser weapons, and so on.
- At the outer layer, armed drones can be utilized, they can provide early warning and small strike operations. Armed helicopters can locate and attack targets more quickly if they are discovered and conveyed by other assets such as drones or ship-based sensors.
- RHIBs and armed USVs can also play an important defensive role against small boat attacks by interfering and engaging approaching threats.
- Another method for engaging boats is ship-launched loitering munitions. According to a recent contract awarded to Raytheon, the US Navy intends to utilize these loitering weapons on USVs and UUVs.
- All of these efforts can be aided by Air Force assets, which can be used not only to engage the boats at sea, but also to bomb the boats at the base before they pose a problem.