by Stephen Bryen
Iran is making a big deal announcing the launch of a new military catamaran. So far we only have some glimpses of the ship, but it does not look like a successful design.
We know very little about this ship but one thing is for sure: this is not a real military ship. You don’t build a military ship with extensive glass windows on its side.
There is almost no room on the platform for weapons. Sitting in the harbor, the Iranians had a small helicopter parked on the deck. There were no weapons in sight.
If the ship is primarily fiberglass and is light, maybe it could obtain the speed the Iranians claim –24 knots. This is not as fast as conventional frigates and about the same as the patrol boats we have in the Persian Gulf. Not very impressive. The new Iranian ship looks like a knockoff of a commercial catamaran passenger vessel, maybe a small ferry. (One wonders if Iran bought a ferry in Europe and converted it?) There is a YouTube video of the “launch” of what appears to be a commercial Iranian catamaran, which may give us some hints of its evolution.
In short the new Iranian ship looks mostly bogus. It appears to be far less capable than the much smaller fast attack boats Iran has been sending out on missions in the Gulf, threatening US ships. This new catamaran contributes less than nothing to Iran’s offensive capabilities. About its only possible virtue is that it may be hard to pick up on radar –but thankfully it is big enough to be seen through conventional optical sensors.
While the Iranians are never short on boasting and awful propaganda, they may want to take a step back before their catamaran sinks below the waterline.
If you want to build a really capable military catamaran, take a look at what Taiwan has achieved in its new Tuo Chiang Class corvette. This is a truly beautiful and effective war fighting platform, loaded with firepower, very fast (43 knots +), great sea keeping, stealth design and long range. Most of the Iranian boats have crude firepower, short operational range, limited sea keeping, and probably cannot operate at night.
Taiwan has committed to building a dozen or more of the current version of its corvette. These will outperform the aged Perry Class and Lafayette frigates Taiwan currently has, are far faster, and carry significantly more weapons in a very small space. Thanks to a far smaller crew size and long endurance, the Taiwanese Tuo Chiang class corvettes make better use of limited manpower and optimize the punch these systems have in protecting the island.
The Tuo Chiang class corvette is a platform the US should have a serious look at. We only have old patrol boats which have minimal firepower and relatively low speed. These Cyclone-class patrol boats operate at a serious disadvantage to Iran’s speedy fast attack boats. Some of them have already been decommissioned and one was sold (or given) to the Philippines. Having a Tuo Chiang corvette in the Persian Gulf would give us a big advantage, far more than the LCS which we won’t even take into the Gulf because it is toothless and oversize.
The Tuo Chiang cost one fourth as much as the LCS and is fit for purpose. Whether the LCS, apparently designed by too many committees, can function in a war environment is open to serious doubt.
As for Iran, it is time for us to let them know that they can’t run around calling America names and threatening our ships. We have been there and done that before and in the Reagan Administration we chased them out of the water. Let’s get the right equipment and do it again.