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Middle East , Missile and Space

How to Block the Strait of Hormuz; Iran Could Deploy Lethal Cruise Missile Armed Stealth Drones for Ship Hunting

August 08th - 2018

Despite embarking on a number of highly ambitious projects to built destroyer warships and frigates indigenously, the capabilities of the Iranian surface navy remain somewhat negligible relative to those of its potential adversaries - namely the United States Navy and those of a number of European powers. As a result, the Iranian armed forces have invested in a number of asymmetric anti ship technologies - which include several hundred missile armed speed boats - reportedly unmanned, near silent Russian and North Korean designed diesel attack submarines, and air launched anti ship cruise missiles. While Iran lacks advanced cruise missile platforms such as the Russian-Indian Brahmos, the CX-1 deployed by Algeria or the Russian P-800, all of which are capable of impacting their targets at near three times the speed of sound, it has obtained some older subsonic anti ship missile technologies from the Chinese People's Liberation Army and produces a several of Chinese missile designs under licence. Iran's Oghab and Nazeit cruise missiles are heavily based on Chinese technologies, while its most prolific anti ship platform the Nasr is a direct derivative appearing nearly identical to the Chinese C-704.

With a range of 35km and the ability to approach enemy warships at extremely low altitudes, the Nasr is widely deployed by Iranian F-4D Phantom twin engine heavy fighters - platforms with a considerable range and payload and a speed of well over Mach 2. With each Phantom able to deploy multiple missiles, the country's F-4 fleet equipped for a maritime strike role can pose a significant threat to enemy warships. Producing Nasr missiles at relatively low cost in considerable numbers, and with limited Phantom fleet, the Iranian military has reportedly sought out new launch platforms for the anti ship missile. While Iran's Saeqeh light fighter and upcoming indigenous Qaher-313 stealth fighter are possible candidates, a report from the Iranian Defence Ministry has indicated that the country is instead seeking to equip its indigenous combat drones with the Nasr missile. Iran's drone technologies have surprised defence analysts the world over, and the country has reportedly received Chinese assistance in reverse engineering the U.S. RQ-170 stealth drone and manufacturing it in both combat and reconnaissance variants - the latter which was deployed on a mission into Israeli airspace in 2018

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan stated when announcing the country's plans to equip its drones with the Nasr cruise missile: "Using the airvbased Nasr missile by the Army, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the Air Force will remarkably increase their operational and tactical power. These missiles can strike and destroy enemy targets with a high-precision capability and provide for a wide range of the Armed Forces' needs to missiles with different ranges. As the Nasr missile is equipped with a high-precision radar allowing it to trace and intercept targets, it doesn't need any backup and the fighter jet can leave the danger zone immediately." The defence minister noted that the military could likely deploy the missiles from its combat drones, which could potentially better allow for the launching of swarm attacks to overwhelm the defences of hostile surface warships from standoff ranges. While it is unclear whether Iranian stealth drones will carry the Nasr, considering their effectiveness in combat and their high survivability in high contested combat scenarios such as a potential conflict with the U.S. Navy, this remains a significant possibility.

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