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Hybrid War at Sea: Iran’s Great Prophet 5 Exercises

Photos from Iran’s Great Prophet 5 war games are popping up on the interwebs; Uskowi on Iran has a good collection. These show Iranian small boat swarms attacking a hapless target vessel with 107mm rockets and machine gun fire.

The Islamic Republic uses its growing fleet of small boats and fast attack craft in pursuit of a doctrine of “access denial,” according to a 2009 Office of Naval Intelligence report I’ve posted below the jump; part of the “anti-access” challenge that figured so prominently in the 2010 QDR.

As ONI points out, small boat tactics are not particularly new and should be familiar to anybody who has read accounts of U.S. PT boats or German E-Boat tactics during World War II. Iranian small boats will operate near shores using geography to mask their presence, use hit and run attacks, will operate in groups and attack ships with limited mobility in congested sea lanes, straits or entering or leaving port.

Iran’s Naval Forces — ONI 2009

– Greg

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Young April 26, 2010 at 3:07 pm

it would seem the fastest way to combat this threat is to load similiar high speed small boats armed with antitank style rockets and crew served weapons on a amphibous assualt ship that could also carry helos.
They could quickly offload and attack or be on patrol. This seems readily available and cheaper then the LCS ship which needs a missle system that does not even exist.


LEP April 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

The U.S. ONI report omits some rather important information. The small Iranian attack craft - and you can check ONI's pictures - are increasingly equipped with surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs). Thanks to Chinese cooperation (China imports 12% of its oil needs from Iran), Iran has developed its own indigenous SSM industry. According to a detailed article by Mr. Robert Hewson, JANE'S DEFENCE WEEKLY, April 21, 2010, Iran is producing the Nasr/C-704, Kosar (or Kowsar) C-701, and Noor C-802 families of SSMs that can be used both for coastal defense in mobile batteries (check ONI image), or they can be mounted on fast attack craft. These Iranian SSMs provide defense coverage to a zone of 200 km from the Iranian coast line. The 2009 ONI report essentially confirms what our forces had simulated in the "Millenium Challenge 2001" exercise where the "red" forces (enemy) through the use of asymmetric naval warfare tactics in the Persian Gulf had caused some very real headaches - and serious casualties - on the "blue" friendly forces.


George April 27, 2010 at 12:57 am

Minor point, but Iran does not mount C-802 on small boats. The missile is too big. It's for coastal defense cruise missile batteries and larger ships like their Houdong and Combattante II patrol boats (and their indigenous corvette).


LeeRet Army April 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Stalin stated "Quantity has a quality all of its own" I am not a Navy man (Retired Army) but defense is defense and I think it would make more sense to use an airborne approach to defend against these "swarms" and attempt to engage them beyond their ability to engae us (stand off). Drones would be a good first line then systems like the Phalanx for close in denial. I think it would be a waste of resourses to try to match them boat for boat. They are counting on the odds and not considering the losses they would have in such an attack.


saberhagen April 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm

The only reason those boats are here is because that's all they can afford, not that's its a superb platform or tactic.


Raraavis April 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

1 attack Helicopter is worth about 30 of these small boats. There is no reason to match them boat for boat. We simply need to be prepared and have our defensive systems in place and ready. If a US warship is ever sunk by one of these swarms it will be because they were out of position or we didn't have our defensive assets where they were suppose to be.


Matt B April 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Well said - case closed!


Nidi62 April 26, 2010 at 9:21 pm

These boats are armed mostly with mines and anti-ship missiles with some heavy machine guns thrown in, right? Imagine what a couple A-10 Warthogs staged out of bases in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia do to swarms of these boats.


Chops April 26, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Couple of AC130s would do the trick also.


IronV April 26, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Hybrid small boat warfare. A cross between ignorance, delusion and sheer skull-numbing incompetence…


joe April 26, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I think you guys are all really missing the point…

What you didn't hear was the kick-azz sound track of the old "Miami Vice" theme song blaring over those monster speakers desguised as Mines on the front of the boats…

If your gonna go up in flames, might as well do it to a good sound-track…


Crazy77 April 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

One B61


Tim April 28, 2010 at 3:21 am

All these ships and boats have to have a place for docking somewhere. Find them and obliterate all available facilities. Worst case scenario, we can blockade all the waterways… permanently.


Crazy77 April 28, 2010 at 7:39 am

I say we block the waterways with the battered hulls of the Iranian navy.


Noah April 29, 2010 at 4:33 pm

I'm just curious, do these boats also have any competent SAM missiles to handle helicopter threats? Would that require a radar array they can't support?

Also, our Navy has an oft ignored fleet of dolphins that will attach explosives to their hulls in a preemptive strike, amirite?


Seth April 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm

What some ppl dont know is that if you get to close to one of our ships your going to get lit up but mounted auto targeting volcan cannons and i dont know how well one of those small little attack boats could handle that…. on top of every thing else thats going to get thrown at them


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