US Vice Adm. Mark Fox, the commander of the 5th Fleet, fears that Iran may use mini submarines in case of the conflict in the Persian Gulf. "They have increased the number of submarines ... they increased the number of fast attack craft," Vice Admiral Mark Fox told reporters. "Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device. The Iranians have a large mine inventory," he added. Fox believes that the Islamic Republic constantly increases its naval presence in the region. Moreover, Fox added, Iran can block the Strait of Hormuz - the water artery used to transport nearly 40 percent of world's crude.
According to US intelligence, the Iranian Navy has ten "suicide boats." Fox added that US troops would be able to prevent the attempts to block the strategically important strait. However, he says that the US should not ignore the Iranian threats. According to him, Iran's use of mini submarines can cause very serious problems in the region, which will be very hard to cope with for the US.
The Islamic Republic has been developing its "mosquito fleet" during the recent years. Iran builds missile and torpedo boats, as well as the fleet of mini subs. It is worthy of note that during the times of the Cold War, the majority of analysts were certain that "mosquito forces" would not be able to play an important role in global conflicts.
They particularly referred to the WWII experience saying that multiple torpedo boats were one of the least efficient weapons. The boats were presumably used for auxiliary missions, such as intelligence operations, building minefield obstacles and landing commandoes.
Few positive things were said about mini submarines too. Soviet and Western experts believed that such subs did not play a decisive role in WWII. Small submarines were of small range for their operations, let alone their low technical performance.
Nevertheless, fast boats and small submarines pose a serious danger to combat vessels. It would be enough to say that there was a speedy inflatable boat used to attack the USS Cole off Yemen in 2000.
Nowadays, the Iranian Navy has up to 1,500 speedy boats. Nearly all of them can be used for suicide attacks.
As for the possible use of small submarines, this is a relatively new way of struggle for Iran. The Islamic Republic owns both Iranian and North Korean 90-110 tonnage midget subs. The Iranian subs are based on the well-known Italian minisubs.
Konstantin Sivkov, the Vice President of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems, said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that Iran's suicide subs would not be as efficient as it may seem.
"The variants of the torpedoes like those used by the Japanese during WWII proved to be inefficient. That was mostly because of low technical characteristics. First off, they could not operate autonomously too far from the basic forces of the navy. In addition, the equipment of such torpedoes reduced their speed. To crown it all, if they were detected, it was very easy to destroy them. Common submarines can fully replace midget subs.
"Modern underwater commando forces can indeed cause considerable damage to the enemy. However, it can only happen in case of unexpected attacks against naval bases or against the vessels traveling at low speeds. This is not going to work in the Persian Gulf, because the Americans defend their bases well, and their vessels travel at high speeds. The Iranian midget subs are slow and quite noisy.
"I'd be more concerned about common diesel-powered submarines, which Iran has. They are known as "black holes" because of their very low noise level. It is very hard to detect such submarines even with the help of modern equipment," the expert said.
We would also like to mention here that the development of missile weapons after WWII has increased the opportunities of the mosquito fleet. The boats equipped with anti-ship missiles can obviously conduct highly efficient attacks.
The events of 1984-1989, known as the Tanker War, showed that such vessels could be efficient. The Iranians managed to strike more than 400 targets without the use of suicide attackers. Those were not only tankers, but also oil rigs. They even paralyzed navigation in the Persian Gulf for a while.
The administration of the Islamic Republic was perfectly aware of the fact that it would not be able to have the navy comparable to that of the US. They used the "mosquito fleet" instead. Will the Americans be able to protect huge Saudi tankers?