Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) launched its new catamaran named Shahid Soleimani during a ceremony in Bandar Abbas earlier this month. Named after the former IRGC commander killed by a targeted US airstrike in 2020, the missile corvette is said to be equipped with stealth features. The head of the IRGCN, Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, asserted that the new vessel would increase the navy’s operational range to about 9,000 kilometers. If true, this feature would theoretically allow the IRGCN to achieve the blue water capabilities it regularly touts and better threaten US ships. However, the Iranian regime has exaggerated its capabilities in the past.
Shahid Soleimani’s Proclaimed Abilities
Shahid Soleimani is the first of three catamarans that the IRGCN will unveil in overtime. Iranian media describe the new IRGCN corvette as a patrol-combat vessel, which is equipped with a smaller radar section. Perhaps the most important attribute Soleimani possesses is its ability to operate away from Iranian bases, a capability that the navy’s other small attack raft cannot accomplish. Additionally, the Soleimani appears to be the first Iranian warship to sport vertical launchers capable of firing anti-aircraft missiles up to approximately 150 kilometers. As explained by Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “the ship can also use ‘six box launchers to fire anti-ship missiles such as the Nasir, Ghader and Ghadir, with ranges of 35-300 km.’ Combined, these capabilities would make the Soleimani capable of firing at a “lethal range” of over 750 kilometers.
If these ranges are not unprecedented in the Iranian arsenal, the new corvettes could push back the threshold of the IRGCN, “by launching suicide drones like the Shahed-131 or 136, which can strike targets up to 1,000 km away (or even 2,200 km according to some). unconfirmed sources). The ship could also be able to launch the Quds-1/2 cruise missile and the Article 385 anti-aircraft cruise missile that Iran previously supplied to Houthi forces in Yemen.
Iran has recently increased provocations targeting American ships
Whether Soleimani’s reported capabilities are true or not, the IRGCN has undoubtedly increased its number of blue water operations as the regime has accelerated the production and development of ballistic missiles. Iran has long threatened the US presence in the Persian Gulf and recently sparked several run-ins with US Navy ships and US marine drones. In early September, US officials released footage showing the Iranian support vessel Shahid Baziar illegally towing an unmanned surface vessel Saildrone Explorer. Eventually, Iran released the marine drone. However, this incident did not mark the IRGC’s first attempt to provoke the US in recent years. A few months before the seizure of the marine drone, three Iranian attack craft harassed two American ships in the Strait of Hormuz. In March, three IRGC vessels remained dangerously close to US Navy and Coast Guard vessels as they headed out of the Gulf.
Iran has already released a ship – its own in a faulty simulation
In 2020, an IRGCN frigate accidentally sank an Iranian warship during routine naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman. The frigate Jamaran launched a Noor anti-ship missile which struck the support ship Konarak, killing 19 sailors and injuring others. The Konarak had towed a floating missile target into place and did not get out of the way quickly enough before the Noor struck. Iran’s first anti-ship cruise missile is a reverse-engineered model from China C-802 anti-ship missile. Equipped with a range of 74 miles and a 363-pound warhead, the Noor could inflict serious damage on enemy ships. In 2005, the Israeli navy ship Hanit was badly damaged by a missile similar to the Noor, according to Popular mechanics.
Although Iran managed to eliminate one of its own ships in a military exercise gone wrong, the chances of the IRGCN seriously impairing the structural integrity of a US aircraft carrier are very low. However, as the Iranian regime continues to prioritize the development of longer-range missiles, its naval capabilities could grow to pose a greater threat to US warships.
Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst at the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has lines in numerous publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel.