The Kayvan-class vessel Tiran armed with Nasr anti-ship missiles. Source: IRNA
The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) appears to be replicating the capabilities of the naval wing of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) by arming more of its small vessels with anti-ship missiles.
While this could indicate that the IRIN is receiving more resources so it can turn existing vessels into more capable attack platforms, it also seems to be suffering delays in its frigate and fast attack craft (FAC) construction programmes.
The up-armed IRIN patrol boats were displayed to the Iranian media during a ceremony held at Bandar Abbas on 1 December. The photographs of the event showed six vessels with canisters for launching anti-ship missiles: the Hendijan-class tenders Sirik (1402) and Kalat (1407), the Kayvan-class patrol boats Tiran (202) and Mahan (204), and the Parvin-class patrol boats Parvin (211) and Bahram (212).
Rear Admiral Abbas Zamini, the IRIN's head of technical affairs, suggested this was part of a wider programme. Fars News Agency quoted him as saying that 10 vessels had been or were being armed with Nasr, Noor or Qader anti-ship missiles. The Nasr is the Iranian version of the short-range, solid-fuel Chinese C-704 missile; the Noor is the Iranian version of the turbojet-powered C-802; the Qader is an extended-range version of the Noor.
The Hendijan-class vessel Sirik is armed with what appear to be Noor anti-ship missiles. (IRNA)
With a full-load displacement of 467 tonnes, the Hendijan-class is the largest of the three types. It is also the newest as it was produced by the Dutch company Damen in the late 1980s. Photographs released by Iranian news agencies suggest both have been fitted with four Noor missiles. However, Kalat was seen armed with the same missiles back in 2008.
The Parvins and Kayvans both have a full-load displacement of around 150 tonnes; the former were commissioned in the late 1960s and the latter were originally built for the US Coast Guard in the 1950s. The four boats appear to have been fitted with two Nasr missiles each. The third Parvin class, Nahid (213), already has short-range anti-ship missiles.
"These frigates [sic] are out of the sight of enemy radar because of their small size. This increases our missile capability," the Fars News Agency quoted IRIN commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying.
While the IRIN has previously unveiled an up-armed Hendijan and Parvin, it has been the IRGC Navy (IRGCN) that has previously led the drive to arm small attack craft with active-radar guided missiles so they can more effectively threaten shipping in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
The recently up-armed IRIN vessels are also larger and less manoeuvrable than the fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) the IRGCN is bringing into service. When Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei visited the IRGCN base in Bandar Abbas on 27 February, he inspected at least seven small boats armed with short-range anti-ship missiles. These appear to have been the new variant of the Zolfaghar (IPS-16)-class FIAC unveiled in 2011.
The up-arming of old IRIN patrol boats could be an indication that Iran's production of anti-ship missiles is now outstripping its ability to field naval vessels capable of launching them.
In this context, it might be notable that the IRIN has not commissioned a Sina FAC since 2009. The Sinas are Iranian-built versions of the Combattante II (Kaman class) and are more appropriate anti-ship missile platforms than the Hendijan-class tenders. Two uncompleted Sinas have been at Bandar Abbas and IRIN's main Caspian base at Bandar Anzali respectively since 2012.
This could be because the IRIN is focusing its resources on constructing Mowj frigates (the Iranian-built version of the Alvand class/Vosper Mk 5). It claimed to have launched the second, Sahand , at Bandar Abbas in September 2012, but satellite imagery showed the vessel did not leave the dry dock until 2013 and was back in there by March 2014, where it has remained since. This has not prevented the Iranians from starting work on another Mowj hull in the same dry dock.
It now appears that Damavand , which was officially launched at Bandar Anzali in March 2013, will be the second Mowj to become operational. Unlike Sahand , it now has the markings on its helicopter deck and IRIN officers have indicated it will join the Caspian fleet by the end of the current Persian year in March 2015.
The newly armed IRAN vessels on display at Bandar Abbas on 1 December. (Tasnim News Agency)
Analysis: Iranian navy up-arms old patrol boats with anti-ship missiles - IHS Jane's 360