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Friday, December 04, 2009

Iran's new naval buildup could allow closure of Straits of Hormuz

GERTZ:The Office of Naval Intelligence is warning that Iran's naval forces could shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz where some 30 percent of all the world's oil and natural gas passes and severely disrupt international commerce and energy supplies.

The ONI report, released last week, stated that Iran's naval modernization includes the purchase of Chinese and Russian advanced weapons systems, including Kilo submarines and C-801 cruise missiles, among other weapons.

"Naval modernization is one of Iran's highest military priorities and the country continues to focus on weapons acquisition and development programs," the report states. The Iranians are expanding existing arms inventories and adding "increasingly sophisticated systems," the report said.

This Strait of Hormuz. Xinhua/Reuters
"Weapons, such as the Hoot supercavitation high-speed missile torpedo, may be proliferated throughout the Iranian naval inventory as will longer range anti-ship missiles, such as the Ra'ad," the report said, noting that mining weapons also will be expanded.

The report states that Iran would lose money from shutting Hormuz, but that closure of the strait in a conflict could be carried out in extreme circumstances.

"Given the importance of the Strait, disrupting traffic flow or even threatening to do so may be an effective tool for Iran," the report said.

The world would face "serious economic impact from a sustained closure of the Strait of Hormuz due to greatly reduced supplies of crude oil, petroleum supplies and LNG," the report said.


Japan and China would be hit hard by such a closure along with the United States and Western Europe.

Iran's navy relies on both conventional and asymmetric warfare concepts and its weapons procurement has focused on purchasing large numbers of small and fast military boats, like its 10 Chinese-made Houdong fast attack craft, which are equipped with high-speed anti-ship missiles.

The Iranians also have purchased fast patrol boats from Italy's Fabio Buzzi Design, which are based on racing boat designs. Iran's navy has reversed engineered the boats and is now producing its own version.

China also sold Iran rocket-propelled and Russia sold three Kilo submarines in the 1990s.

"The primary missile in the Iranian mobile [coastal defense cruise missile] arsenal is the C801/802, first imported from China in 1995," the report said.

The C802s are Iran's most capable missiles and the report noted that with them "Iran can target any point within the Strait of Hormuz and much of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman."

Additionally, the Hizbullah terrorist group used a C802 to sink (WRONG- damage, article from 2006 no less) an Israeli naval vessel in 2006 and the ONI said "Iran could use the missile in the same way."

Iran also has "worked jointly with China to develop shorter-range missiles, including the C701, for deployment in narrow geographic environments," the report said.

Iran also has several midget submarines that can be used for covert operations.

Air defenses include Russians systems including the Tor-M1 and purchase of S-300s.

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