The IRI Armed Forces
The Army is equipped with numerous portable anti-aircraft missile complexes as well as antitank self guided missiles of Soviet and Russian design.
The “trumps” of the IRI Navy are three Russian submarines of the “Paltus” Project made in early 1990s.
The missile defense consists of Soviet/Russian design missiles - at least 10 surface-to-air missiles S-200, 45 S-75 missiles, 29 «TOR-M1» and 30 British Rapier short-range missiles. It was reported that a few S-300 missiles were brought from Belorussia.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
In the event of a full scale military conflict it is the Navy of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the national Navy that are designated to strike back at the aggressor in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.
According to the US data received from open sources the combination of light fast naval ships, small aircraft, missiles and mines that is currently taking shape can incur severe damage to the Iranian enemy's Naval fleet. As the Cato Institute military analyst David Isenberg wrote in the Asia Times, as the large scale US Naval exercise in the Persian Gulf in 2002 showed, in the event of a sudden massive attack up to 16 US naval ships would be destroyed (including 10 cruisers and 5-6 landing craft) and over 20 thousand US military personnel would be killed. The exercise that included practical maneuvers and computer modeling were conducted under the command of the Marine Corps' Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper. The expert mentioned that «in the years that followed Iran invested a lot in order to facilitate the use of the Riper strategy».
Possible counter actions of Iran in the Persian Gulf basin against the US Naval forces supported by the NATO ships and aircraft (potentially also Israeli):
The Persian Gulf is an area of responsibility not of the Iranian Navy but of the Revolutionary Guards that have seven important bases there (Bandar e-Abbas, Khorramshar, Larak, Abu Musa, Al Farsiyah, Halul, Sirri).
In total the Revolutionary Guards' Navy has no less than 55 missile, torpedo and patrol boats, including those of Iranian design and construction, with anti-vessel missiles and 100 speed-boats also equipped with hand held surface-to-air missile complexes. The boats are hard to detect by the radars.
Iran can place mines in the Persian Gulf. Iran has at least 2000 mines (2004 year estimate) that can be deployed from small vessels, boats and commercial ships. Iranian military swimmers have special submersible vehicles for secret transportation of mines, torpedoes and enlisted men.
According to the CIA estimates, Iran has at its disposal the Chinese EM52 anti-vessel reactive mine, as well as potentially modern Russian mines of magnetic, acoustic type or based on the principle of change in pressure. Iran also produces its own explosive devices even if they are not so technically advanced... The mines are the key threat. Usually the US deploys in the Gulf few means to combat the mines. As far as the other Arab countries in the region go, they have only five Saudi mine layers and several helicopters of various levels of combat readiness and preparation of the military personnel.
The Iranian Navy can employ three diesel submarines of the «Paltus» Project of Soviet/Russian design (another name is «Varshanyanka» which coincides with the NATO «Kilo» classification). Even according to the world standards those are the least detectable submarines. The submarine is equipped with 18 torpedoes, 24 mines, as well as six «Strela-3M» surface-to-air missiles. There is an unknown number of Iranian mini-submarines Ghadir-SS-3; they all can carry the «intelligent» torpedoes and mines. Various sources estimate that Iran can possess up to 16-19 submarines of this type.
The Revolutionary Guards' Air Force can strike from the air. The Revolutionary Guards' Air Force has various types of drones at their disposal and control Iran's strategic missiles units. By the year 2010 Iran designed Karrar and R’ad drones. Both aircraft have a range of over 1,000 km and can destroy targets with guided missiles. Not only drones can attack the enemy, but also hydroplanes, planes and helicopters. Besides that, the Revolutionary Guards' Air Force has one brigade of short-range ballistic missiles Shahab-1 (300-500-700 km) comprising of 12-18 launching units; one battalion of medium-range ballistic missiles Shahab-3 (1200-1280 km), comprising of 6 launching units with 4 missiles each. They can strike at the US Navy's military targets on land.
The Revolutionary Guards can try to employ their intelligence and sabotage units, including the special operations unit for foreign operations called “Kods” (5 to 15 thousand people), in order to organize sabotage and scouting missions as well as assault operations against the military bases and key infrastructure objects of the enemy on the Persian Gulf coast.
Chances are good that a massive forestalling attack on Iran by the aircraft and ballistic missiles of the Navy and Air Force of the US/France/Great Britain/Israel can deprive the IRI of its “trumps”, for example, such as the ballistic missiles.
Consequently, our next material will discuss the current state and future perspectives of the Iranian Air Force and missile defense and their ability for resistance.