The exercises with the code name Velayat 90 were announced by the commander of the Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari in Teheran last Saturday.
The naval drills will take place in the Gulf of Oman and the northern Indian Ocean in international waters “in the near future”. Objective of Velayat 90 is the testing of new tactics and equipment on a large scale. RAdm Sayyary reiterated the defensive character of the war games.
In another interview with the Iranian news agency FARS, the IRIN’s deputy commander, Rear Admiral Seyyed Mahmoud Mousavi, said that the exercises will be a trial for the latest naval missiles, sub-surface weapons systems and domestically built submarines.
FARS News goes on, quoting Mousavi as saying, “Showing the capabilities, might and the deterrence power of Iran’s Navy will convey this message to the adversary states that the navy is prepared to defend its maritime borders and will give a crushing response to any possible aggression.”
On 28 November three new Ghadir-class midget submarines were delivered to the navy, which operates now 17 boats of this class. The Ghadir has a displacement of only about 150 tons and was specifically designed to operate in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, so it is doubtful if they will venture out into the high seas.
A Ghadir is 29 meters long with a top speed is only 11 knots (about 20 km/h) but it carries two super-cavitating Hoot rocket torpedoes that can reach the incredible speed of 360 km/h under water. These torpedoes are thought to be reverse-engineered copies of a Russian weapon.
The new domestic anti-ship missiles to be tested could be the Nasr-1, a short-range cruise missile with radar-evading capability, which can destroy a target the size of frigate with one hit.
Another anti-ship missile built in Iran is the smaller, land-based Kowsar, that can be launched from the back of a truck and has a range of 20 kilometers. According to Iranian officials, the Kowsar is immune to electronic counter-measures (ECM) which means it cannot be diverted from its course once locked on a target.
Iran has other anti-ship missiles in its inventory, but all of them are either of foreign origin or – in the case of the Noor – a domestic modification of a Chinese weapon.
Velayat 90 can be seen as another attempt of the Iranian military to show its muscle. It is also an opportunity to practice the defense of the own coast and the blockage of the strategically highly important Strait of Hormuz. Start and duration of Velayat 90 remain unknown so far.