Thursday, April 20, 2006

Something else to worry about

Via Antonia Zerbisias, William Rivers Pitt is scaring me, too:
I told my boss that I couldn't believe it was possible the Bush administration would do this. I ran through all the reasons why an attack on Iran, especially with any kind of nuclear weaponry, would be the height of folly.

Iran, unlike Iraq, has a formidable military. They own the high ground over the Persian Gulf and have deployed missile batteries all throughout the mountains along the shore. Those missile batteries, I told him, include the Sunburn missile, which can travel in excess of Mach 2 and can spoof Aegis radar systems. Every American warship in the Gulf, including the carrier group currently deployed there, would be ducks on the pond.
I've also heard that Iran has the Exocet, though how they'd have gotten them is a mystery to me (as far as I know, France hasn't been selling them to Iran.) Some people may be confusing the Exocet and the Silkworm, which Iran apparently has in abundance.

The Sunburn missile is a truly terrifying piece of work. I'm skeptical, however, that the potential for disaster in the Gulf is as great as Pitt makes it sound. This is only because I haven't yet found authoritative sources confirming that Iran does in fact have the Sunburn. Most of the sources I can see that don't amount to "some guy with a website and a theory" say that Iran was interested in purchasing the Sunburn from Russia (the Russians call it the Moskit) and that China definitely has some, but so far I can't find anyone confirming that Iran has them.

Even if the Sunburn rumours turn out to be false, the Silkworm alone might pose a challenge for the US Navy. I don't know how the Silkworm and Exocet compare, exactly, but it's worth remembering that Argentina gave the UK a really hard time with a half-dozen Exocets during their little war. Not to mention the USS Stark, which was fired on by Iraqi forces during the "tanker wars" between Iran and Iraq.

1 comment:

Brad said...

I've got a book coming out in July ("No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf", Naval Institute Press) about the last time U.S. and Iranian forces clashed. The companion website has photos of the reflagging and convoy effort, the seizure of an Iranian minelayer, and the daylong battle waged in retaliation for the 1988 Iranian mining of the Roberts.