Amid continuing tensions with the U.S., the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has apparently launched a new heavy warship able to operate helicopters, attack boats, and drones. Photographs of the ship show it appears to be a converted roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) transport ship with a helipad, about half the length of a U.S. aircraft carrier.
New “multirole” vessel was adopted in service of the of IRGC Navy. Looks like there the idea is that it’s the floating platform for various weapons, reconnaissance assets, etc., depending on the need. On photos there on deck – 3rd Khordad SAM, Ghadir\Ghader ASM, Ababil-2 UAV etc pic.twitter.com/FMvbfCbZiN
— Yuri Lyamin (@imp_navigator) November 19, 2020
Whether this a serious new danger, or more of a propaganda effort to showcase Iran’s new missiles and drones, is yet to be seen.
Stars and Stripes reported that the photographs also “showed it carrying truck-launched surface-to-surface missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. It also carried four small fast boats, the kind the Guard routinely uses in the Persian Gulf. Sailors manned deck-mounted machine guns.”
As a comparison, The Drive notes, “it is Iran’s somewhat questionable take on American expeditionary sea bases [ESBs],” such as the USS Lewis B. Puller, which have previously written about. However, it is smaller and far less capable.
As a supposedly multi-purpose fighting platform The Drive describes the ships visible weapons:
From bow to stern, the weapons visible on deck comprise eight anti-ship cruise missiles in four twin container launchers, six Ababil-2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a single Bell 412 helicopter, four speedboats, and a 3rd Khordad surface-to-air missile system on a road-mobile transporter-erector-launcher plus what appears to be an associated command vehicle. Iranian media reports that the vessel is also equipped with a three-dimensional phased-array radar, plus “advanced communication systems for electronic warfare.”
This type of Iranian expeditionary sea base or mothership could be useful for limited operations and asymmetric warfare. As The Drive notes, “forward-deployed to the Red Sea, could include supporting the Iranian-backed Houthi militia operating in Yemen. It could also serve as a platform for more directly challenging the country’s regional opponents, including Saudi Arabia.”
Meanwhile, though Iran claims this ship is intended for open ocean operations outside the confines of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, that claim appears dubious.
The Drive explains that:
…as currently configured, the various weaponry is all simply placed on deck, seemingly not even lashed down. As such, it is exposed to the elements and potentially at risk from the effects of a deck pitching and rolling in rough seas. In an operational environment, much of this kit would instead have to be stowed in the hold below deck.
There’s also the very real problem of the survivability of this type of vessel in a conflict scenario. It’s unclear how resistant the design might be to hostile attacks and, at least in the configuration that Iran has displayed so far, it appears to have limited air and anti-ship defenses.
This isn’t the first time Iran has made dubious claims of new military capabilities, including fake stealth aircraft, and “unstealthy” ships. While the U.S. should keep an eye on this new ship, this also needs to be seen as another part of Iran’s never-ending information warfare and propaganda effort.