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Ghadir: Iran’s Mini-Submarines (Thanks to North Korea)

Ghadir
Ghadir Submarine. Image Credit: Iran State Media.

The two branches of Iran’s navy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy and the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, command a combined fleet of 34 vessels. The vast majority of these vessels are Ghadir-class midget submarines, which are designed after North Korea’s MS-29 Yono class. 

Small But Dangerous

Designed to cruise the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, the Ghadir class has a surface displacement of approximately 117 tons. Its tiny frame makes the vessel challenging to detect. This coastal submarine holds a crew of seven and can reach 11 knots. Its small frame features two 533mm torpedoes. The sheer number of these midget submarines poses a tactical challenge to the U.S. Navy and Iran’s other adversaries.

Although Iran’s miniature submarines are less advanced than the country’s larger Kilo-class fleet, they boast some alarming capabilities. The coastal waters where they operate include the Arabian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman. The Strait of Hormuz is extremely shallow, which limits the larger and more advanced Kilo-class submarines. In fact, the Kilo subs can only operate in approximately one-third of the waters of the Persian Gulf. Iran’s fleet of mini-submarines can operate throughout.

According to experts, “The water [of the Strait] provides noisy background conditions that help cover up the sound of a submarine, but the shallow waters make the submarine more likely to be visually identified from the air or surface of the water. The confined waters and strong currents of the Gulf make the Strait of Hormuz an extremely hazardous place for even experienced submariners.” Since the Ghadir class is so small, enemy submarines will often fail to detect the subs, even in these shallow waters.  

The director of the National Maritime Foundation furthered the point by adding that the Ghadir-class remains “the most difficult to detect, particularly when resting on the seabed … Further, given their numbers, these could overwhelm [their] enemy’s technological superiority.”

Strategic Use

The Ghadir’s small size and advanced maneuverability also lend well to Iran’s strategic aims. The miniature submarines are equipped with sonar-evading technology and are capable of launching missiles, firing torpedoes, and dropping mines. The Ghadir’s bow torpedo tubes are large enough to fire heavyweight torpedoes. The Ghadir can also fire Russia’s Shkval rocket torpedo, which Iran reverse-engineered for its use. 

Iran’s recent emphasis on ballistic and cruise missile technology has reportedly extended to the Ghadir class. According to state-run news sources, Iran successfully tested a Nasr-1 subsurface-to-surface cruise missile from a Ghadir-class submarine during a 2019 naval exercise.

While its Kilo-class diesel-electric fleet holds Iran’s largest and most sophisticated underwater vessels, its Ghadir-class miniature submarines should not be underestimated. The small size, easy maneuverability, and launch capabilities of Ghadir submarines make them a formidable force in the Persian Gulf. 

Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. CollinPowell

    May 24, 2022 at 8:34 pm

    “The coastal waters where they operate include the Arabian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman”

    There is no Arabian Gulf. A legitimate journalist will use the correct name Persian Gulf. Stop kissing US government false propaganda butt. You butt kissing, stooge!!!!

  2. Richard sarabi

    May 26, 2022 at 3:31 am

    It’s intet sting how almost all articles on Iran these days are coming from israelis.they must feel so emboldened by perennial support from the U.S. Also interesting that gal Gadot mentioned the r cent gaza conflict as “a disagreement with our neighbors”.Neighbors that are occupied and embargoed from trade with the outside world.The Israelis don’t try to hide their agenda.even amnesty international has called Israel an apartment state and rightly so.it does not matter though, the U.S. had supported Israel since 1948.no matter what,Everytime the U.N. tried to sanction Israel, the U.S. vetoed it.why? Because the American Taliban, evangelicals believe when all Jews return to Israel, “Jesus” is coming back.And certain politicians will do anything to get their votes and keep their jobs.everyone else is the bad guy, never America or Israel.Palestinians,Vietnamese,Afghans and Iraqis might beg to differ.Most of all, What did Vietnam EVER do to America?someone please enlighten me

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