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Monday, September 24, 2007

Iran's Swarm Attack Tactics in the Strait of Hormuz

You might have missed this article on Iran's 1000 boat "swarm force" stationed near the Strait of Hormuz...:
The U.S. Navy has determined that Iran has amassed a fleet of fast patrol boats in the 43-kilometer straits. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responsible for strategic programs, leads the effort.

At this point, officials said, IRGC has deployed more than 1,000 FPBs in and around the straits. The vessels, armed with cruise missiles, mines, torpedoes and rocket-propelled grenades, are up to 23 meters in long and can reach a speed of 100 kilometers per hour. ***
"This marks the implementation of Iran's swarm program, where dozens of armed speed boats attack much larger naval vessels from all sides," an official said.
IRGC swarming tactics envision a group of more than 100 speedboats attacking a target, such as a Western naval vessel or a commercial oil tanker. They said 20 or more speedboats would strike from each direction, making defense extremely difficult.
"We have devised various tactics and other ways of coping," U.S. commander Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff said. "You just don't get 1,000 or 500 or even 20 of anything under way and tightly orchestrated over a large body of water to create a specific effect at a specific time and specific place. They have their own challenges.''
Wait, they won't just magically appear all around a carrier battle group all at once? Even with their incredible Iranian stealth attack ground effect boat/planes?

More on "swarm" tactics and on the Iranian stealth effort here under the title of "Iran's Doctrine of Asymmetric Naval Warfare" -
Swarming tactics are not new; they have been practiced by land armies for thousands of years. Such tactics require light, mobile forces with substantial striking power, capable of rapidly concentrating to attack an enemy from multiple directions and then rapidly dispersing.

Iranian naval swarming tactics focus on surprising and isolating the enemy’s forces and preventing their reinforcement or resupply, thereby shattering the enemy’s morale and will to fight. Iran has practiced both mass and dispersed swarming tactics. The former employs mass formations of hundreds of lightly armed and agile small boats that set off from different bases, then converge from different directions to attack a target or group of targets. The latter uses a small number of highly agile missile or torpedo attack craft that set off on their own, from geographically dispersed and concealed locations, and then converge to attack a single target or set of targets (such as a tanker convoy). The dispersed swarming tactic is much more difficult to detect and repel because the attacker never operates in mass formations.

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Pasdaran navy used mass swarming tactics; as a result, its forces proved vulnerable to attack by U.S. naval and air power. Because of this, it is unlikely that such tactics would be used for anything but diversionary attacks in the future. In today’s Iranian naval forces, mass swarming tactics have largely given way to dispersed swarming.

Dispersed swarming tactics are most successful when attackers can elude detection through concealment and mobility, employ stand-off firepower, and use superior situational awareness (intelligence), enabling them to find and engage the enemy first. This accounts for a number of trends in Iranian naval force development in the past two decades. The first is the acquisition and development of small, fast weapons platforms—particularly lightly armed small boats and missile-armed fast-attack craft; extended- and long-range shore- and sea-based antiship missiles; midget and diesel attack submarines (for intelligence gathering, covert mine laying, naval special warfare, and conventional combat operations); low-signature reconnaissance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); and the adaptation of the Shahab-3 medium-range surface-to-surface missile armed with a cluster warhead reportedly carrying 1,400 bomblets, for use against enemy naval bases and carrier battle groups.

Iran has also sought to improve its ability to achieve surprise by employing low-observable technologies (such as radar-absorbent paints), strict communications discipline, stringent emissions control measures, passively or autonomously guided weapons systems (such as the Kowsar series of television-guided antiship missiles), and sophisticated command-and-control arrangements. To support its naval swarm tactics, Iran has encouraged decentralized decisionmaking and initiative, as well as autonomy and self-sufficiency among naval combat elements.
Dispersed swarming? Adm Cosgrove has it right - a coordinated attack is difficult to conceal and an uncoordinated attack can lead to forces being defeated seriatim.

For some thoughts on the effectiveness of other "super" weapons, Galrahn has a good post here.

Picture of captured Iranian Boghammer boat in San Diego Harbor from here as is the Iranian Boghammer action photo which bears the following caption on the Warboats site:
Iranian Boghammer from "Operation Earnst Will." Note on the bow the box is 107mm rocket launchers and also carried 51 cal on stern, plus RPGs & SAAM missles.
UPDATE: Map of Strait of Hormuz liberated from someplace else. It purports to show Silkworm missile ranges in the area.

UPDATE2 (9/25/07): Galrahn has a new post up on Iranian Underwater Warfare Capabilities. Mines, mines, mines. Submarines. Oh, my.

UPDATE3: A much earlier post on Iran and sea mines here. And a submariner looks at the Iranian mini-subs here and at the links therein.


  1. Anonymous8:50 PM

    it would be a tough way to see if all the money we spend on our ships is worth it. I fear we have made them to fight the last war and not very defensible against this type of attack.

  2. Even if they are very much expensive, if they can help a lot in the navy forces why not. In this way we can help track and captured fugitive along the sea if we had the best speed boats.

    Jojo @ west michigan boat storage