While Iran has been saber-rattling about confronting the US and other countries, its navy looks more like a floating wreck than a real challenge. This is because, although Tehran keeps showing off new ships and weapons, several of its Kilo-class submarines are out of the water.
According to a report at USNI News by H.I. Sutton on January 31, "Iran's best submarines have been out of the water for a month."
The 3,000-ton Kilo class submarines all appear to be in dry dock, the report said, adding: "They are based at Bandar Abbas near the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. The Russian-built boats are armed with up to 18 torpedoes and can remain submerged for several days at a time. They are, logically, central to the Iranian Navy's ability to defend the country."
So why are they sitting on land? The author, an expert on such matters, speculates there may be a wider serviceability issue. What that means is unclear, but Iran has had problems with its ships in the past and often has issues getting parts for its large platforms. The issue faced by the Islamic Republic is that while it is good at building drones and missiles, it has an issue when it comes to helicopters, airplanes and ships.
Iran under sanctions has not been able to modernize many parts of its regular army and navy. That means it has to rely on ships and planes that are many decades old. Sometimes Iran even uses old US Boeings, C-130s and other planes from the era of the shah.
Iran still has several smaller 600-ton Fateh-class submarines, but they also don't seem to be active, Sutton wrote. Iran's submarines are not ancient: They were built in the 1990s.
However, it is unclear what is wrong also with them – and how this setback may harm Iran's capabilities.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.