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Pentagon Keeping Tabs on Iranian Naval Exercise

Undated photo of IRGCN fast attack boat.

THE PENTAGON — U.S. officials confirmed they were monitoring Iranian naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, but had little to say about the activity involving up to 100 vessels and intended to showcase the nation’s desire to be the regional maritime security power.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) exercise occurred during a time of increasing tensions between Iran and the U.S. On Monday, President Donald Trump reinstated sanctions against Iran, effective this week, in a move related to his May 2018 decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The exercise was conducted with the aim of controlling and safeguarding the security of the international waterway within the framework of the IRGC’s annual calendar exercises program,” the force’s spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said Sunday, as reported by Tehran-based Press TV.

On Monday, as Trump finalized reinstating the sanction, comments from Iranian officials were more pointed.

“If the oil faucet is turned on and the petrodollars go to the pocket of those who threaten Iran, it will definitely have effects on the security of the strait,” said Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, Iranian Armed Forces spokesman, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

For its part, the Pentagon said they were keeping tabs on the operations.

“Clearly we’re aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman last week,” Col. Robert Manning, the director of press operations for the Department of Defense during a media briefing Monday. “There were no unsafe or unprofessional interactions with the Iranian naval forces last week.”

A year ago, on Aug. 8 and then again on Aug. 14, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operated by Iranian forces approached the carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) while it was conducting flight operations in international waters.

“The UAV did not use any aircraft navigation lights while it made several passes in close proximity to Nimitz and its escort ships during active flight operations, coming within 1,000 feet of U.S. aircraft,” said a Navy statement released after the August 14, 2017 incident. “The failure of the Iranian UAV to utilize standard, internationally-mandated navigation lights during a nighttime approach of a U.S. aircraft carrier engaged in flight operations created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws.”

Since last summer, though, Iranian forces have significantly curtailed their harassment of U.S. Navy vessels. In January, Iranian officials said the decrease was caused by their belief the U.S. Navy was operating differently, in a less threatening manner. U.S. Navy officials told USNI News at the time there had been no change in U.S. Navy operations in the region.

Iran scheduled this exercise at a time when the U.S. Navy is not operating a capital ship in the region. According to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker, as of Monday, the Navy’s nearest deployed capital ship to the Strait of Hormuz is USS Essex (LHD-2), which is operating in the Western Pacific.

U.S. 5th Fleet does have warships based at its headquarters in Bahrain which conduct regular patrols in the area. According to press reports, the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) is operating the region.

“They’re capable and they maintain an appropriate posture to respond to any contingencies in the area,” Manning said of 5th Fleet forces. “We continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways and advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.”

  • I would not be surprise if the US Navy sent a Submarine to keep tabs on them

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      I would think the navy are loath to sending a precious asset like that into a body of water with an average depth of 160ft.

      • Urodoc

        Which is why our navy must seriously consider procurement of ultra-quiet, advanced propulsion non-nuclear-powered submarines (SS and SSK) in addition to the ongoing acquisition of SSNs. Not all underwater missions require an SSN. We could purchase 2-3 conventional submarines for the price of a Virginia class SSN.

        • Donald Carey

          No – that would be a total waste of resources – as others have said, the water there is too shallow, any sub there should be very easily detected and destroyed.

          • Duane

            No, SSNs operate routinely in shallow waters during ISR and ASW patrols, and they are not “easy to detect and destroy”.

            You have no idea what you are talking about.

            I am a veteran Cold War SSN sailor, and my boat operated at various times in shallow coastal waters along Russia’s coast line in waters shallower than in the Persian Gulf. We lived.

          • Donald Carey

            Modern sensors can “see” a sub anywhere in the Persian Gulf, this is not the 1970’s.

        • Duane

          SSNs are just as capable of operating in shallow seas as any diesel-electric or AIP sub. Much more capable, since a SSN does not need to snorkel or surface to charge batteries as a D/E boat must do routinely (usually at least daily in normal operations) and so is more stealthy than a D/E boat … and has far greater speed and endurance than any AIP.

          And as far as the “value” of an SSN vs. a D/E or AIP sub, yes, it costs a lot more dollars to buy and operate a SSN, while delivering enormously more capability … but by far the most valuable feature of any vessel is its human crew, which is priceless. Sending a low value ship out with a high value crew, as if the crew were an expendible asset, might make sense to a despotic regime that does not value human life like we do.

          But we are not that country.

          • NavySubNuke

            “Sending a low value ship out with a high value crew, as if the crew were an expendible asset, might make sense to a despotic regime that does not value human life like we do”
            Interesting. I didn’t realize you considered countries like Japan, Israel, Norway, Australia, and Germany (just to name a few) to be despotic regimes that don’t value human life the way we do.
            You do realize that all of those countries actually operate SSKs right? And that the crews of them are also high value even if they aren’t Americans?

        • NavySubNuke

          We might be able to purchase 2-3 SSKs for the price of a Virginia — but in doing so we would give up a Virginia and get — at best 40% of the capability of that Virginia.
          In reality, even if we forward deployed them, you’d still need 4 – 5 SSKs to come close to matching the capability of a Virginia. And even then you would really match it and those 4 – 5 SSKs would cost more to maintain — taking up further resources.
          No, the last thing the submarine force needs is SSKs sucking away time and resources.

    • Brian Smith

      Don’t quote me on this, but my understanding is that the USN doesn’t operate submarines in the Gulf due to the water depth.

      • Bobby Tucker

        I want to visit that area this winter.

      • Duane

        The USN certainly can and frequently does operate our subs in shallow coastal waters. Indeed one of the new capabilities of the Block 3 Virginias is a fly-by-wire nav system that the Navy says improves the operability of our SSNs in shallow coastal waters. One of the primary missions of any SSN is ISR, and that mission usually requires stealthy submerged operations in often shallow coastal waters near enemy naval bases. Been there, done that.

        We also send SSNs thru the Bering Strait from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean, which strait is even shallower than the Persian Gulf, and which borders the Russian coastline of Siberia … not to mention being further constrained vertically by the several-meter-thick ice pack for much of the year. Been there, done that.

        But none of that is to say that any submarine CO and crew is ever comfortable in shallow waters, where a submerged submarine is both easier to detect (no thermoclines to hide under … but even so, it is still not easy to detect any of our SSNs) and easier to attack by surface ships or aircraft. Sub sailors prefer to have lots of water under the keel. But if the mission assigned requires otherwise, as it often does, then we go there, and do that.

      • I wouldn’t be shocked if they do but then again that’s why the Submarine Service is called the Silent service. They are tight lip as to what they do

        • Secundius

          At least Two SSN’s were sent into the Persian Gulf in early 2018. SSN-760, USS Annapolis and SSN-766, USS Charlotte as far as I could find. Don’t know what the exact dates of deployments were or reason of deployments…

  • Duane

    100 vessels? The Iranians only have 5 frigates and 3 corvettes, plus 3 Russian Kilo subs … so most of the vessels involved must be coastal patrols and small fast attack craft.

    The Navy plans to forward deploy 2 Freedom variant LCS to Bahrain in FY2019. And more in subsequent years as they become available. The Persian Gulf and waters around the Horn of Africa are the prototypical contested littoral waters where these warships are most needed.

    • DaSaint

      The shelf-life of those 5 frigates, and 3 corvettes is limited in a shooting war. The 3 Kilos, should they all be operational, could be a bit of a problem, but I don’t know about how proficient the Iranians are in their submarine operations. Certainly their base would be destroyed rather quickly, rendering them unable to replenish easily.

      • Murray

        The Iranian Navy also operates the Yono (IS 120) class of midget submarines armed with two 21 inch torpedo tubes. These are ideally suited for operating in the shallow waters of the Gulf and in the Strait of Hormuz. A North Korean submarine of this type sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan on March 26, 2010. These small subs could be a real threat.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    You’d think this scenario would be ideal for some sort of combat ship…. perhaps one tailored for combat in the littoral water of the Persian Gulf?

    Alas, to my knowledge…the US Navy has no such vessel.

    No.. wait!
    The Cyclone Class patrol ships are still there, working diligently.

    • Secundius

      There’s also the M80 “Stileto”, of which there is only ONE, the (20) Mk.5 Special Operations Crafts, the (60) Mk.6 Patrol Boat and the “Ambassador III” Patrol Boat Missile, which the US Navy “Isn’t” even allowed to use. Not including an Unknown Number of 11-meter RHIB Boats operated by the US Navy…

    • Duane

      Snarky irrelevencies again, we see.

      Two Freedom variant LCS are scheduled to forward deploy to Bahrain in FY2019, which begins after the end of next month, and expanding to at least four LCS forward deployed there long term.

      • Kypros

        It’s taken over a decade to get them deployed to the region they were designed for. Let’s hope they perform well.

        • Duane

          LCS have been deploying to the other major littoral sea area – the South China Sea, which has been much more contested and active by a far more capable near peer naval force (the PLAN) – for the last 5 years, since 2013, operating out of Singapore.

          It takes a considerable number of ships commissioned, shaken down, through post-shakedown availabilities (4 LCS are doing that now), and not dedicated full time to testing and integrating cutting edge new technologies including the bulk of the Navy’s unmanned systems (UAVs, UUVs, and USVs), (2 LCS are dedicated to that), and full time dedicated to training new construction Blue and Gold crews (2 more LCS are dedicated to that role), before there are sufficient ships available to forward deploy to both of the world’s hottest sea areas on opposite sides of the Asian continent.

          That point will be this coming year when 4 LCS will be forward deployed – 2 to the SCS and 2 more to the Persian Gulf. Within 2 years that number will grow to 8, 4 in each theater. And more still are likely to forward deploy to the Baltic.

          At most only about 1/3 of any warship type will be forward deployed at any one time except in wartime. Of the eventual 34 ship LCS fleet, that would be 10-12 ships. We are well on the path to get there in the next several years as the ships are built, commissioned, and trained up. The mission module work will be finished up within next year (ASW) and the following year (MCM). The new OTH missiles and launchers will be integrated next year. So there will be a lot more LCS available for deployment over the next 1-2 years.

          • Kypros

            The SCS deployments were a bit different than the upcoming Persian Gulf deployment in that nasty people might actually start shooting at them there. As I said, I hope they perform well and start giving the taxpayer some return on their investment.

          • Graeme Rymill

            MCM mission module IOC is FY2021 not 2020.

            “LCS have been deploying to the other major littoral sea area – the South China Sea,…. for the last 5 years, since 2013, operating out of Singapore.”
            It sounds impressive. Yet in reality in these 5 years only 3 LCSs have deployed. The first deployment was a 10 month deployment by USS Freedom commencing March 2013. It spent 65% of its time in port (mostly in Singapore) and just 35% at sea when the the 7th Fleet goal was a 50% split between port time and sea. Mechanical problems abounded. Write this deployment off as an initial test. Next deployment was USS Fort Worth. It was away from November 2014 until October 2016. Six months of this it was sitting in Singapore after a mechanical problem occurred. The captain of USS Forth Worth was relieved of duty as a result. The third and final deployment was USS Coronado. It departed Pearl Harbor August 2016 headed for the the start of its deployment in Singapore. Mechanical problems forced it back to Pearl Harbor. It eventually arrived in Singapore in October. Three deployments with all three having major mechanical problems.

          • Duane

            MCM IOC by the end of FY2020, not the end of FY2021.

  • proudrino

    Bottom line: No need for the Navy to do anything at this time but monitor the situation. There is no sense in sending a high value asset or even a target ship like the LCS into harm’s way to respond to bluster. Should the Iranians escalate hostilities, we are prepared with assets that need not battle a bunch of small vessels in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

    • Duane

      You are greatly confused … the IRGC “navy” as it were, is the “target”, while an LCS is the shooter.

      • proudrino

        LOL. You always crack me up with your riff that the LCS is just the same thing as a warship. If confronted by multiple vessels, that little pop gun would not be able to protect the ship.

        • Secundius

          Said “Pop Gun” has been in Continues Production since 1962, and ~22 Navies use it. If it were such a Bad Weapon System. Nobody would be using it. Approximately 80% of ALL Aircraft’s Shot Down in WWII, was Shot Down by a “Bofor’s” Auto-Cannon of Some Kind. Regardless of which Military used it…

          • Duane

            Yup … the Bofors 57 mm gun was developed in the late 50s as the successor to the extremely successful Bofors 40 mm AA gun mounted on virtually every one of our WW2 combatant ships, even many of our fleet submarines. It was upsized to 57 mm to shoot down high speed jet aircraft at longer ranges than the 40 mm could reach.

            Some “popgun”. I invite any of its sneering critics to take a ride on any of Iran’s high speed small attack craft downrange of one of our LCS when the “popgun’ gets limbered up. The Navy published the videos of the results of a flotilla of attacking drone craft after getting “popped” by those 57 mm blast frag rounds, each with 8,000 high velocity tungsten filaments.

            If any humans had been aboard, they’d have been converted to human puree. The upper works of the boats were also blasted to bits.

        • So, how many Iranian boats are going to get past armed Seahawks and Firescouts and then LCS’s own 35-43 Hellfire/RAM before the 57mm gun even comes into play? Oh, and that assumes they can even catch an LCS going 45 knots.

          • proudrino

            Assumes the LCS is available and not in one of its lengthy maintenance periods. That’s a pretty big assumption. So….. unless you can go 45 knots from pierside, this is a moot discussion.

          • Duane

            LCS maintenance availabilities are no longer than for any other surface warship we have

          • Duane

            Much more likely that it is the LCS, and its deployed aircraft, that do the chasing, catching, and killing.

        • Duane

          Well for once I agree with you … you are definitely cracked up.

          😂

  • Jack D Ripper

    CNN etc quite impressed with the fast attack whalers

  • Augie Rocco

    To my daughter and her shipmates on USS ESSEX:
    LOVE YOU and MISS YOU!! Be safe and just do your job..

  • Duane

    What Israeli navy provocations?

    You mean the fact that Israel exists?

    • vetww2

      Grea respose. Just more fake news.

  • John B. Morgen

    The Navy needs to build and deploy coastal FAC, in order to deal with this Iranian threat. Large [Blue Water warships] will not do, we need something that is very fast and be well armed.

    • Secundius

      The “Ambassador III”! Unfortunately it’s an EXPORT Naval Vessel only (i.e. Not for US Navy usage)…

      • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

        Nice looking (if expensive) boats.

        • Secundius

          Approximately $385-Million USD each in 2018 Prices or ~$322.5-Million USD each in 2009 Prices…

      • John B. Morgen

        Why is that, just for export?

        • Secundius

          Don’t know. Most likely for National Security Interest. “Keep you’re friends close, and you’re [potential] enemies closer”…

    • Maybe something with say, 45 knots top speed, two dozen missiles, and three rapid fire guns?

      • Duane

        And 3 to 4 aircraft deployed, each armed with long range sensors, Hellfires, and APKWS guided rockets. And with a 24 cell Hellfire launcher on the ship?

        Wow, wouldn’t that be great – as long as the Navy didn’t call it a “Littoral Combat Ship”!

        🤣

        • Secundius

          As in the Flight I Littoral’s “SSC’s” (i.e. Small Surface Combatants)…

      • NavySubNuke

        Sounds great but remember he said build AND deploy. Not just build and attempt to deploy.

  • waveshaper1

    Maybe all them “Combat Hammer” exercises/training we have been conducting down at Eglin AFB (Choctaw Bay/Gulf of Mexico) for years will finally payoff. These exercises normally last a week and happen twice a year. Typically these exercises involve 2 or 3 dozen small/fast boats doing swarm attack formations/maneuvers/etc. Our pilots – fighter Jets/helicopters/etc get a chance to practice/refine their tactics/weapon system that hopefully will allow them, if necessary, to “Bring Down the Hammer” on these small/fast boat swarms over in the Persian AO.

  • coakl

    Aircraft are the best way to deal with these boats.
    Saudi/UAE/Bahrain/Qatar/Oman have plenty of expensive tactical fighters and expensive missiles/guided bombs to deal with any Iranian boat ‘armada’.

    Boat vs. boat combat may look great on the movie screen. But its not reality.

    • Duane

      Aircraft are certainly valuable components in defending the littorals, but you can’t depend only on aircraft. Warships can do presence, aircraft cannot. Warships can operate in weather that attack aircraft cannot. Warships have much longer mission endurance and persistance than any aircraft.

      And last but not least, warships also serve as mobile airbases to deploy naval ISR and attack aircraft without the need for nearby land airbases.

      To fully defend the littorals requires both ships and aircraft. It’s been that way since before WW2, and that won’t change any time soon.

      • vetww2

        Your scenarios do not account forb mass attack by small boats. The analogy would be the difference between exciting a beehive vs. fighting off lion.

    • vetww2

      SWARM techniqes (which defeated the fleet in 1814) is once again in the foreground when you talk about close waters, like the Persian Gulf.
      The best counter, in my opinion, is fast, fast, highly maneuverable, (hydrofoils?) with high velocity, rapid fire guns like the Spanish “Meroka” that can weave through them and destroy them. I understand that the Iranians have many RIBs and planing skiffs (Iin photo) as well as Russian KOMAR and OSSA boats which are very vulnerable to gunfire.
      The problem with aircraft is straight line shooting pass at numerous quickly maneuvering craft. Helos would be better, but for vulnerability. this is very different boat v. boat combat that you are, correctly thinking about.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Those Jews eh Steveo….. don’t you just hate them!
    You specifically.

  • J. R.

    Why did we let an Iranian UAV fly so close to an aircraft carrier, let alone during flight operations? Next time it needs to be immediately shot down.

  • NavySubNuke

    Hey stolen valor – I always do love when you show up to spread more anti-Semitic hate.