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What's Farsi For "Nos Morituri Salutamus?"

Well, Iran has announced that it has built and launched its first major surface combatant. And the warship -- the Jamaran -- promises to shake up the balance of power in the Persian Gulf.

No, really. Honest. They're actually saying that. STOP LAUGHING, DAMMIT! THEY'RE SERIOUS!

I'm a bit of a naval buff, and as I read about this so-called "destroyer," I have to wonder who they think they're kidding.

According to Wikipedia (and while it's often derided, in cases like this it's fairly reliable), the Jamaran is 308 feet long, displaced 1,400 tons, and is armed with a 76-mm cannon, a 40-mm cannon, 2 20-26mm cannons, 4 surface-to-surface missiles, some anti-aircraft missiles, and torpedoes. It also has a reported top speed of 30 knots.

Let's be blunt. This ain't a "destroyer." This is a frigate at best, if not a corvette. "Destroyers" haven't been this small since before World War II. And while 30 knots is a respectable speed for most ships, destroyers -- the "greyhounds of the sea" -- usually have a top speed on the high side of 35 knots.

OK, it's small and slow, for a "destroyer." Maybe it makes up for it in hitting power.

The missile suite is OK. The anti-ship missiles could be pretty decent -- rumor has it they're Chinese-made cruise missiles that have a disturbingly solid reputation. We don't have any details on the anti-aircraft missiles or the torpedoes, but I suspect they're also Chinese-made and pretty good.

How about the guns? They'll probably be used most often (shells being cheaper than missiles), so they're pretty important.

The main gun is an Iranian-manufactured 76mm cannon. It's a knockoff of the Oto Melara, a very good Italian-made weapon that dates back to the early 1960's. But while old, it's been continually improved and is still state of the art -- the US Navy has used it on a variety of ships, and it's still being made and sold today. It's fully automatic, and some versions can fire up to 100 rounds a minute.

The secondary gun has an even older lineage. The 40mm is suspected to be derived from the weapon invented by the Swedish firm Bofors, and development on that gun started in the late 1920's. It has a legendary history as an anti-aircraft gun, and has been steadily improved over all those years, and the latest versions fire over 300 rounds a minute, and one variant pumps out 450 a minute -- almost eight shots a second.

So, on paper, it's a halfway decent smallish frigate.

What matters is what Iran will do with it. And that, to be blunt, ain't much.

The Iranian navy is a respectable force, the most potent of the Persian Gulf states.

Unfortunately for Iran, there's a navy that isn't based in or around the Gulf that utterly dominates that area -- the US Navy. And to the US Navy, the Jamaran poses less of a threat and more of a challenge. What's the quickest way to sink her? What's the cheapest? What's the most efficient? What's the most spectacular? What's the most deniable?

Iran would be better served, strategically, by submarines and not surface combatants. Like Nazi Germany, they're facing a naval opponent that hopelessly outclasses them on the high seas. Instead of trying to match their opponents in a head-to-head matchup, they'd be better advised to focus on a more stealthy weapons platform that can threaten not warships primarily, but commercial shipping. A few subs with torpedoes and mines could cause far more havoc than a flotilla of these "destroyers."

On the other hand, surface ships like this have one major advantage over subs: they're a lot harder for the US to make disappear. Subs go to sea and vanish. When they don't come back, there are a lot of plausible explanations -- rammed by a passing ship, mechanical failures, weapons failures -- besides "somebody found it inconvenient and quietly sank it."

The Jamaran is named after a village just outside Teheran where the Ayatollah Khomeini lived during his rule. I suspect that a good portion of the US Navy tends to translate the name as "target."


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Comments (17)

Obviously from the same peo... (Below threshold)

Obviously from the same people who built Iran's supersonic submarine and stealth flying boat.

Interesting summary, not ex... (Below threshold)

Interesting summary, not exactly a Jane's description ;-)

But I have to say that given the geography of the area, the USN has the USAF, the Marines, and even the USA to compete with in target acquisition and destruction.

Not to mention a stray mine left over from Iranian mining operations in the past (the ultimate deniability option).

Target Practice. That is th... (Below threshold)

Target Practice. That is the literal translation of its name from the US Navy. I like the idea of an Iranian mine being relaid in front of it on its sea trials, would be great to watch the persians try and save face. As to calling it a destroyer, that is wishful thinking, our destroyers are as powerful as our WWII battleships, this thing is about as strong as a Destroyer Escort of WWII vintage (now called a frigate) and maybe not even that strong. mpw

OK Abdul, you take the "Jam... (Below threshold)

OK Abdul, you take the "Jamaran" and I'll take a Perry Class frigate operating as an Aegis system element.

120 crewmen X 72 virgins each = 8,650 virgins

I'm going to put in a few w... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson:

I'm going to put in a few words for the Iranians on this --

First, any nation with a long coastline, especially when near troubled areas including, for example, pirates and smugglers, can't be blamed for getting some warships suitable to control the coast. The "Jamaran" appears very suitable for this role.

Second, the fact that Iran built this itself is a significant technological and industrial achievement.

Third, while not changing the balance-of-power vis-a-vis the US, it probably does change the balance vis-a-vis the other Persian Gulf states. The US might not always be around, so the other states may feel a need to beef-up their own navies.

They will never have a chan... (Below threshold)

They will never have a chance to use it for anything significant. If it uses the same Sea Cat point defense SAM, some American F/A-18 driver is going to drop a Harpoon well outside his defensive range and ruin his day. If that's too expensive, how about a Predator and a couple of Hellfires? While too small to kill him, it would make the ship's crew too busy to be a problem for a while.

I doubt the Reaper/Hellfire... (Below threshold)

I doubt the Reaper/Hellfire could avoid the guns/AA missiles on the Iranian vessel. Although its small, its slow.

A pair of GBU-12's, however... (Below threshold)

A pair of GBU-12's, however, might be just a little more than the Iranian boat could handle, and they can be launched far enough away to keep the drone safe.

Sea Cat is good out to abou... (Below threshold)

Sea Cat is good out to about 5000 meters. The 76 mm has longer range, but neither of those systems can handle the small radar cross-section of the Hellfire. (I play a commenter on the Internet, but this stuff was my day job.) And even a small warhead can ruin your day. (See Turkish destroyers and AIM-9s.)

Eh, just wait until a large... (Below threshold)

Eh, just wait until a large storm whips up while it's at sea, and have some SEALS slap a bunch of C4 on it below the waterline. Then wait until after the storm when it's about to put back into harbor and blow the C4. They'll blame it on the Mossad, and be out a pretty penny.

Re: submarines.I h... (Below threshold)
Roy Lofquist Author Profile Page:

Re: submarines.

I have a very strong suspicion that they are useless. The processing power, storage capabilities and GPS probably make the Gulf and environs like a specimen affixed to a microscope slide. One ping per hour and we can count the fish in a school.

Roy, re subs, it might seem... (Below threshold)

Roy, re subs, it might seem that way. The Gulf is very tough acoustically. Lots of ambient noise and funky water conditions because of the bathtub temperatures. This complicates ASW, and actually can help offensive ops by small diesels like the ones owned by Iran when operated by experienced crews.

I'm sure they'll mak... (Below threshold)

I'm sure they'll make pretty underwater reefs.

Sisson "for example, ... (Below threshold)

Sisson "for example, pirates and smugglers, can't be blamed for getting some warships suitable to control the coast. The "Jamaran" appears very suitable for this role."

Well take it from someone who spent thousands of hours floating around the Gulf and within 15 miles of Iran's coast 99 percent of the smugglers and pirates ARE Iranian, IRG specifically.

AS for Jamaran's use in the Gulf it is in fact a target but not just for the U.S. the Saudi's will take great pleasure sinking this piece of crap with one of it's U.S. supplied Harpons off one of its patrol boats.

LAG "This complicates ... (Below threshold)

LAG "This complicates ASW, and actually can help offensive ops by small diesels like the ones owned by Iran when operated by experienced crews."

True enough but the Russians suckered them into buying Kilo sibs. but not jsut any Kilo Subs, they were tricked into buying "cold water" Kilos that have performed as ecpected in the VERY hot Persion Gulf.

That is to say hardly perfomred at all.

BIG WOW.... (Below threshold)


The Navy could slip a SEAL ... (Below threshold)

The Navy could slip a SEAL team into the harbor, and set several packages of C-4 on the hull below the waterline. Bye Bye ship and plus it would probably block the channel that they use to move ships in and out. Or the SEALS could swipe some electronics and thus render it useless, like the Navy did when the terrorists kicked the Shah out before they grabbed the American Embassy.






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