Surface Forces: Iranian Missile Boats


January 13, 2006: The recent comments by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have made Iran a potential hot spot. The Iranian Navy is the one branch of their armed forces that is always in contact with U.S. forces, and would be the first to engage if things got out of hand. The backbone of this navy is a force of missile-armed patrol craft, the modern equivalent of the PT boats that were so famous during World War II. Missile-armed patrol boats made their mark when two Komar-class boats sank an Israeli destroyer in 1967.

Twenty missile boats are currently in service with Iran. Ten are serving with the Iranian navy. These are older Combattante III missile boats. These vessels were purchased in the 1970s, and as a result, they once carried the American-built Harpoon missile. They displace 249 tons, have a 76mm gun, and a 40mm gun. Recently, they were equipped with four C802 missiles. The C802 has a range of 120 kilometers, flies as low as five meters above the surface of the sea in its terminal phase, and has a speed of 1,013 kilometers per hour.

Iran also acquired ten Houdong-class patrol boats from China for the Pasdaran Revolutionary Guard Corps. These ships displace 118 tons, carry four C802 missiles, a twin 30mm gun, and a twin 23mm gun. This is a parallel force to the Iranian Navy (much as the Republican Guard operated in a parallel structure with the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein's regime).

This force carries a total of eighty C-802 missiles. This is not a very serious threat against a Navy carrier battle group, which will have as many as three Aegis escorts. The Iranian boats are not very durable, as was the case with the PT boats. Against lesser forces in the Middle East (like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, this force can inflict serious damage. Against the United States Navy, they are probably sitting ducks. - Harold C. Hutchison (


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