- A video emerged of Iran’s Navy is towing an attack submarine.
- The Russian-built submarine weighs more than 2,300 tons and is long as a jumbo jet.
- The unnamed sub is one of three that makes up Iran’s oceangoing submarine force.
A new video from Iran shows a surreal scene. Iran is towing a giant attack submarine overland by truck, reportedly from a shipyard back to the sprawling Iranian naval base of Bandar Abbas. The sub is one of three purchased from the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
The video shows a Russian Kilo-class (Project 877EKM), one of three delivered to Iran between 1991 and 1996. Kilo-class submarines are designed to operate closer to shore than traditional, ocean-ranging submarines, and the submarines are operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIAN) to cover the mouth of the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and even venture into the Indian Ocean. Iran’s submarine fleet is designed to give the country the ability to attack enemy shipping, including targets as large as American aircraft carriers.
Built at the United Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, Russia, the subs displace 2,325 tons surfaced, are 238 feet long, 32 feet high, and 19.6 feet wide. Each is equipped with six, 21-inch torpedo tubes capable of firing a variety of Soviet/Russian wire-guided, wake-homing, or acoustic-homing torpedoes. The submarines are also capable of laying sea mines.
The submarine appears to be up on two identical sets of large, custom-built chocks and wheels. Each set appears to have about 22 wheels on each side, for a grand total of 88 wheels. That’s about 26 tons of sub per wheel—a lot of weight. The sub is being towed by at least two large cargo trucks daisy chained together though it seems very likely there are many more just outside of the shot.
Sadly unable to share but @Maxar imagery confirms #Iran Kilo taken out of water Feb/Mar 2020 at ISOICO shipyard near Bostanu and placed on supports - consistent in video - (27° 3'10.65"N 55°58'59.82"E)— Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) July 8, 2020
Older @googleearth image below for location reference: pic.twitter.com/BRDjXdYOhc
According to Iranian language media, the submarine is traveling from the Iran Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Complex (ISOICO) back to its base at Bandar Abbas, a distance of about 15 miles. For some reason, the submarine can’t make the trip by water and must travel over land. Joseph Dempsey, a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says the submarine was apparently hoisted out of the water at ISOICO in February/Mach.
Iran has three Project 877EKM submarines, Taregh (“Morning Star”), Nuh, (“Noah”), and Yunes (“Jonah”). According to Combat Fleets of the World, the ships suffered from battery cooling problems, poor training, and inadequate maintenance, and by April 2001, two of the submarines were already considered non-operational. According to submarine authority HI Sutton, the submarines in particular have had issues with their anechoic coatings, a layer of rubber affixed to the sub’s steel hull to reduce noise.
It’s not clear how much of an internal upgrade these ships have received. Typically the most important upgrade for a non-nuclear, diesel electric submarine is new, higher rated, safer batteries to ensure the boat can remain underwater longer.
In addition to the three Kilo-class submarines, Iran operates a larger midget submarine fleet, consisting of the roughly 100-foot-long Qa’em and Ghadir classes, the latter actually a design of North Korean origin. Iran also maintains the even smaller Nahang class, but these smaller submarines are likely restricted to the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.
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