Tension levels between Iran and the U.S. are high after Iranian officials voiced threats to cut off the Strait of Hormuz with sea mines in December. As the U.S. and Israel become more vocal about limiting Iran’s ability to develop its nuclear program, Iran has threatened to disrupt the oil supply that passes through the strait. From miniature submarines, to mines and the U.S. Navy’s response what follows is an analysis of the threat Iran could potentially pose to merchant and naval vessels. ~Editor, Sam LaGrone
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A U.S. Naval Institute overview of Iranian naval forces and capabilities and U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf. Information from the upcoming Combat Fleets of the World 16th Edition, Jane’s World Navies, the U.S. Navy and globalsecurity.org.
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By Scott C. Truver
Iran’s top naval commander, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, late last year warned that closing the strait would be “easier than drinking a glass of water.” The Obama administration has publicly dismissed the threat as “saber rattling,” but also privately informed Tehran that attempting to close the strait would trigger a U.S. military response.
“The laying of mines in international waters is an act of war,” Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, said in a Feb. 12 interview.
“We would, under the direction of the national leadership, prevent that from happening. We always have the right and obligation of self-defense and this falls in self-defense. If we did nothing and allowed some mining, it would be a long and difficult process to clear them.” more
By Cmdr. Dan Dolan, USN
Big surprises often come in small packages and the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) seems to be betting on this adage with its accelerated acquisition of midget submarines in recent years. Open-source reporting indicates that Iran now possesses at least 14 Yono-class mini-submarines. Iranians say these North Korean-designed boats are now being indigenously manufactured in their domestic shipyards. Called the Ghadir-class, production has accelerated since the reported launch of the first Iranian-manufactured unit in 2007 with four of these units launched in 2010 and, according to Jane’s Fighting Ships, another two were launched in the past year. more
“Any ship can be a minesweeper –- once,” goes the old naval joke, but top American commanders in the Middle East are not laughing. Amid the roller coaster of tensions with Iran and a new high-level order to confirm that it can “shoot straight,” the Navy is beefing up its mine warfare capabilities in the Persian Gulf.
This year the Navy plans to double the number of Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships forward deployed to the key port of Manama, Bahrain; increase the number of MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters stationed there; and repurpose an old amphibious transport into a new “afloat forward staging base” to help with the mine warfare mission.
Commanders hope the new combination of ships and aircraft will enable the Navy to at least improve the way it hunts and clear mines, if not offer chances to develop new methods to handle the nettlesome “weapons that wait.” The addition of the staging base, the former amphibious transport dock USS Ponce, adds a potentially interesting new dimension to how the Navy handles mine warfare. more