Iran Can Really Build Submarines?

Mark Episkopos

Key point: Certain technical questions notwithstanding, the inauguration of the Fateh class suggests that Iran is moving ahead with its Naval modernization program.

In yet another milestone on Tehran’s path to becoming a self-sustaining regional power, Iranian state news announced the Iranian Navy has commissioned its first homemade submarine.

The new Fateh-class vessel was unveiled by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani late last week, at a ceremony held at the Bandar Abbas naval base.

Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami noted that “The Fateh (“conqueror”) submarine is completely homegrown and has been designed and developed by capable experts of the Marine Industries [Organization] of the Defence Ministry and enjoys [the] world’s modern technologies.”

To the extent that Tehran has leveraged its limited resources to domestically produce a modern submarine, the achievement is a symbolic step on Iran’s path to military self-sufficiency.

President Rouhani captured the triumphal mood in Tehran: “we will not bow down before the hegemon. We are ready to sacrifice ourselves and shed our blood to protect Iran.”

But while the Iranian military have made it abundantly clear that they possess a homegrown submarine, Fateh’s performance and reliability are another matter altogether. Specifically, quantifiable details are hard to come by, and what little we do know is filtered directly through Iranian state media. Fateh has a displacement tonnage (vessel weight) of 600 tons, placing it in what Iranian and western outlets have called a “semi-heavy” submarine category. Between Iran’s midget Ghadir-class submarines and heavy Kilo-class Yunes vesel, the Fateh class is designed to balance firepower with maneuverability; it can operate for five weeks at a submerged depth of 200 meters

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