Iran’s Shahid Soleimani Catamaran Missile Corvette and Torpedo Armed RHIB

Iranian torpedo armed RHIB carried by Shahid Soleimani class catamaran corvette.

Covert Shores reported on new Iranian missile armed catamaran corvettes, but the report also included the photo above. What we are seeing is a boat suspended from the stern of the corvette. The boat is equipped with what appears to be a torpedo tube for a lightweight torpedo. Presumably there is a second tube on the other side. Diameter is likely to be the same as the NATO standard, 324mm or 12.75″. Unlike most lightweight torpedoes, this is unlikely to be intended for use against submarines. Almost certainly, it is intended for use against surface ships.

There is not a lot of public source information about Iranian torpedoes but their partners in crime, Russia and China, are both believed to have cloned the US made Mk46 torpedo and both passive and active acoustic and wake homing technology is readily available. Passive acoustic homing in the search phase, and wake homing in the terminal phase, seems likely. Range is probably at least 8,000 yards.

This means, these torpedoes can be launched from well outside the effective range of typical Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS) of 20 to 40mm. 

We can’t take much comfort in the fact that the warhead of these torpedoes would be about 100 pounds. That is way less than the approximately 600 pounds of a heavy weight 21″ torpedo like the Mk48, but the effects of an underwater explosion are not linear. The effect of a 100-pound warhead is about half that of heavy weight torpedoes that we have repeatedly seen break ships in half. So, a lightweight torpedo, exploding under the keel, might not break a ship in half, but it is going to hurt.

I have long felt an anti-surface light weight torpedo like this would provide Coast Guard cutters a relatively low-cost way to forcible stop a medium to large vessel, regardless of size, a capability they do not currently have. Apparently, the Iranians think it will work.

Shahid Soleimani Catamaran Missile Corvette:

This is a significant departure for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Apparently, they have recognized that their naval swarm forces are vulnerable to attack from the air, and, I believe, particularly helicopters.

hIran Shahid Solemani class corvette top view

With its array of VLS AAW weapons, these corvettes constitute a serious threat to USN and allied helicopters that might be used to counter Iranian swarm tactics.

When engaged in force protection, if the force protection package includes aircraft, and one of this class shows up, a PATFORSWA Webber cutter class might be doing useful service, if they take station a couple hundred yards behind the corvette and maintain a fire control solution on that probably highly flammable and explosive collection of weapons in the center of the superstructure, behind the bridge–without pointing the gun, of course.

“Israeli Naval Ship Intercepts Drones Launched At Gas Rig” –gCaptain

The C-Dome air defense system mounted on Sa’ar 6 corvette includes a 40-round canister located at the front deck and loaded with vertically-launched Tamir surface-to-air missiles for 360-degree coverage. (Picture source NavalAnalyses.com) Note Harpoon missiles have been replaced by Israeli developed Gabriel V anti-ship missiles. 

gCaptain reports,

JERUSALEM, July 2 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Saturday it had sent three unarmed drones towards an Israeli Mediterranean gas rig, which the Israeli military said it had intercepted.

Israel has been expecting attacks on its offshore energy facilities. Providing a counter was a primary justification for their new Sa’ar 6 corvettes (earlier discussion here).

My presumption is that the intercepts were made by C-Dome, the a sea-going version of the Iron Dome, an AAW missile system that has had a high degree of success in countering unguided rocket attacks on Israel and can serve as a Counter-rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) system. Each of the Sa’ar 6 corvettes has vertical launch systems for 40 interceptors. At least one of the three Sa’ar 5 corvettes has also been fitted with C-RAM.

All four of the Sa’ar 6 have been delivered and at least two of them are reported to be active. In addition to C-Dome the Israeli corvettes are also equipped with Barak missile systems.

Offshore assets appear to be appealing terrorist targets, usually undefended and vulnerable, with potentially high public visibility, if it results in an environmental disaster.

A number of things remain unclear at this point. The type of drones used in the attack, the Israeli system used to bring down the drones, the range at time of intercept, and which vessel or vessels fired the weapons.

Actually it is not clear if the drones were brought down by missiles.

An Israeli security source also said the drones had been unarmed. Saturday’s interceptions were the first time an air defense system (emphasis applied–Chuck) mounted on an Israeli naval ship had downed an incoming target, the military said. 

Could it have been a gun or even a soft kill system?

Perhaps the Most Well Armed Cutter Sized Corvette in the World

Click on the illustration above for better view

More on the Israeli’s new Sa’ar 6 Corvette from Navy Recognition, particularly in regard to the C-Dome missile system (reporting a range of 250 km). It has been over six years since I did my first post on this class. At the time, I thought the Offshore Patrol Cutters might be close in size, but they are more than twice as large as the Israeli ships. Did a second post in Aug. 2015. and I have posted comments as additional details became available, but it is time for another look.

These will be the largest combatants in the Israeli Navy, but their dimensions are still quite modest:

  • displacement: 1900 tons
  • Length: 90 m (295.2′)
  • Beam: 13.5 m (44.3′)
  • Draft: 3.5 m (11.5)
  • Speed: 27 knots
  • Crew: 70

First of the class of four, INS Magen, has completed sea trials and the German shipbuilder has delivered it to the Israelis, who will install the Israel sourced weapon systems. The remaining ships are expected to follow at six month intervals.

Note, contrary to the labeling on the illustration, the 16 missiles amidships, shown in green, will be Gabriel V anti-ship missiles rather than Harpoons. (Gabriel V will also arm the new Finnish ice-capable corvette.)

Aviation facilities are also surprising. The ships are expected to support and hangar an H-60 ASW helicopter and may also support a vertical take-off Unmanned air system.

These ships are remarkable, for their size and crew strength (only 70), in being capable in all three primary warfare areas, ASW, ASuW, and AAW. Their capabilities exceed those of many frigates and approach those of DDGs four times their size.

With a total of eighty-eight missile launch tubes, assuming they are all filled, it seems these will be the most heavily armed ships of their size in the world.

Israel Builds an OPC with a Difference

Saar6PortQuarter

NavyRecognition has some more details about the four 90 meter, 2,000 ton OPV/Corvettes Israel ordered on 22 Dec.2014 that we talked about earlier.

Feeling more immediate threats than the US, Israel’s priorities are of course different from our own. Range and seakeeping are less important, while military capabilities have come to the fore.

They will have a non-rotating multi-function solid-state active phased array radar system (a sort of mini-Aegis system) integrated into the two masts, a 76 mm gun, two Typhoon gun systems essentially the same as our Mk38 mod2s like those on the Webber Class, Vertical Launch Systems for the Barak medium range AAW missile system, the shorter range C-Dome point defense system that uses the Iron Dome interceptor, and what appears to be 16 launchers for anti-ship cruise missiles, probably Harpoon.

The NavyRecognition post does not talk much about its ASW capability, other than to say that they will have 324mm torpedo launchers and facilities for support of a SH-60 helicopter, but since the much smaller Saar5 corvettes have both a hull mounted sonar and a towed array, these are likely to be included as well.

While we will certainly not load up our OPC with weapons like this, it does show how much combat power can be incorporated in a small ship