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US Media Concerned by Iran’s Growing Naval Might, Beefing Up of Asymmetric Warfare Capabilities

CC BY 4.0 / sayyed shahab-o- din vajedi / Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in Great Prophet IX Maneuver in the general area of Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in Great Prophet IX Maneuver in the general area of Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.01.2022
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The Islamic Republic showed off the extent of its naval power projection capabilities last year, when it sailed a mobile, missile-armed forward base and destroyer combo through the Indian Ocean, up the western coast of Africa in the Atlantic, through the English Channel, to Russia and back to Iran.
Iran’s continued efforts to modernize its naval forces bodes toward strengthening the country’s control over the Persian Gulf, in part thanks to the Revolutionary Guard’s heavy reliance on asymmetric warfare tactics, US military affairs outlet Defence News has reported, citing policy experts studying the matter.
The outlet points out that over the past year alone, Iran’s Navy and the Revolutionary Guard Navy, which operate as separate entities, added over 100 combat speedboats, the overhauled Alvand destroyer, four Martoob al-Sabehat swimmer delivery vehicles and other equipment to its arsenal.
In 2022 and the years to come, the country plans to build additional equipment, including a second mobile forward base like the Makran support vessel, a heavy destroyer and domestically produced semi-heavy submarines.
Iranian naval ship, the Makran, is seen near Larak Island, Iran, in this satellite image taken on May 10, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.09.2021
Iran Plans to Build Another Long-Range Mobile Forward Base, Conduct New Trans-Oceanic Missions
“Iran has recently tried to modernize its Navy, which is primarily designed for the defence of [the] Persian Gulf against foreign navies,” Sina Azodi, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, DC-based think tank, told the outlet.
Azodi said Iran has begun allocating more resources to its aging surface and sub fleet after the service spent decades relegated to being the smallest force in the military. He pointed out that unlike the naval forces of many other nations, Iran’s naval forces are distinctly divided between the conventional Navy and forces of the Revolutionary Guard.
“The IRGC Navy and the Iranian Navy have two separate command structures. While some of their responsibilities overlap, the primary difference is the methods and strategies of operation,” the researcher explained. While both forces “share the same mission of defending the Iranian mainland in the Persian Gulf,” the IRGC strategy includes fast boat-centered asymmetric operations, while the Navy operates traditional surface warships and submarines.
Azodi indicated that the Revolutionary Guard considers its asymmetric approach “quite effective against larger navies,” and noted that these tactics were borne out of the international arms embargoes the country has faced over the decades, giving rise to domestic solutions amid hesitation by other countries to sell Tehran naval technologies.
Mohamed al-Kenany, a senior researcher at the Arab Forum for Analyzing Iranian Policies, a Cairo-based think tank, suggested that the “efficacy of the IRGC Navy in the Persian Gulf is very high because of the doctrine and strategy it uses,” and that the Guard “poses the biggest threat in the Gulf since it depends on asymmetric warfare and hit-and-run operations, especially swarm attacks.”
“Gulf navies’ assets need to be equipped,” he urged, pointing to other Gulf nations’ dependence on costly US and French-bought frigates and other large surface ships. “They need thermal systems and thermal electro-optics to be able to detect [adversaries] from large distances, and radars that can monitor them from long distances,” al-Kenany said.
In this Sunday, July 21, 2019 photo, an aerial view shows a speedboat of Iran's Revolutionary Guard moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.11.2021
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‘Expanded Maritime Reach’
Commenting on Iran’s growing naval power late last year, IRGC chief Hossein Salami boasted that the country’s advanced maritime technologies are a source of constant consternation for the Islamic Republic’s adversaries. “Before the Revolution [of 1979] all structures of our power were built by others, meaning that the pillars of our defence power were at the mercy of others. However, after the Islamic Revolution, we have achieved a [level of] power and technology, and this has stirred fear among Iran’s enemies,” he said.
“Today, we have maintained our maritime domination, and also expanded our maritime reach,” Salami added, referring to last year’s 133-day, 45,000 km world-spanning trek by the Makran forward base and a Moudge-class frigate. The mini-flotilla’s journey sparked hysteria in Western media, which initially believed that it was headed for Venezuela with weapons, and then sounded the alarm after the Iranian warships sailed straight into the English Channel on their way to Russia.
An undated photo of Iranian Navy vessels - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.11.2021
IRGC Chief Says Iran’s Advanced Maritime Technologies ‘Stir Fear Among Enemies’
Iran’s conventional Navy includes homegrown Fateh and Ghadir-class coastal and midget submarines, Moudge-class frigates, and a range of fast attack and patrol craft, while the Revolutionary Guard operates hundreds of small speedboats fitted with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.
The IRGC has fearlessly launched these missile speedboats toward large US Navy vessels operating in the Gulf during periods of escalated tensions between the two countries, and former President Donald Trump repeatedly cautioned in frustration that America would blow the speedboats “out of the water” if they continued to “harass” the much larger American ships.
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