Iran's Speedboat Navy: A Desperate Ploy Or A Serious Threat To The Navy?

Sebastien Roblin

Key point: Asymmetric warfare is Iran's specialty.

Iran has fielded a variety of unusual weapons over the years: F-14 Tomcat fighters hotwired to fire Russian missiles, homemade mini-submarines, and remanufactured Cold War jets.

In 2006, Iranian television showcased a peculiar sea-skimming flying boat, and four years later Tehran triumphantly announced it had three squadrons of them serving in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. News commentators boasted it was one of the few countries to “design and produce such advanced flying boats,” which is technically true.

The blue-painted Bavar-2 flying boats seen in this video are examples of Ground Effect Vehicles, also known as ekranoplans, sea skimmers, or Wing-In-Ground vehicles. Basically, these are designed to fly at very low altitudes by capitalizing on “ground effect,” the phenomenon in which wing surfaces encounter less drag the closer they are to the surface. After generating lift through speed during takeoff, GEVs can stay airborne as long as they remain within that low-altitude envelope. This makes them more applicable to maritime operations, where inconvenient mountains are scarce.

The Soviets were the first to deploy functional GEVs in the 1970s and 1980s, including a few huge Lun-class ekranoplans weighing four hundred tons that could lug huge carrier-killing cruise missiles, and an even larger prototype dubbed the Caspian Sea Monster.

Iranian engineers took a very different tack with the Bavar-2. The small one- or two-man boats appear to be intended for scouting purposes. The little vehicles can skim meters above the surface at around a hundred knots (115 miles per hour). They are equipped with night-vision goggles, cameras and real-time datalinks. Armament comprises a single machine gun; missile- or rocket-launching capability has been claimed, but there’s little evidence of it so far.

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