While Iran has several small “midget” submarines built from North Korean designs until now it did not have a fully operational real submarine. That appears to be changing as the recent Zulfiqar-99 military exercise held this week briefly showcased the Fateh, Iran’s first indigenously produced, full-sized attack submarine.
This places Iran in the small category of submarine producing nations, with potential for more advanced versions ahead.
Fateh appeared briefly in an Iranian propaganda video tweeted by Kian Sharifi. “#Iran’s domestically built Fateh-class submarine made its first appearance in a military exercise today but it only took up two seconds of footage in a 4 min+ report on state TV,” noted Sharifi.
#Iran‘s domestically built Fateh-class submarine made its first appearance in a military exercise today but it only took up two seconds of footage in a 4 min+ report on state TV. pic.twitter.com/RWECVRcEoI
— Kian Sharifi (@KianSharifi) September 10, 2020
In the works for a while, naval expert H I Sutton explains in Forbes, “It’s the first time that the Fateh has been reported to be part of an exercise. This points toward it slowly becoming an integrated part of the front-line navy.” While much larger than the IS-120 ‘Ghadir’ midget submarines, the Fateh, which means Conqueror in Farsi, is still a small submarine.
At about 157 feet long and 14 feet across, the Fateh has a submerged displacement of about 600 tons. As a comparison, a U.S. Virginia class nuclear attack submarine is 377 feet long, 34 feet across, and displaces 7,800 tons.
H I Sutton posts a great drawing of the Fateh in a tweet linked to the one by Sharifi.
Hi Kian, I took the liberty of linking your tweet in this article on Forbes https://t.co/v38YRLWN2n I hope that’s ok?
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) September 11, 2020
While clearly not comparable to the attack subs of major navies, Sutton notes that the Iranian sub still is a “regular patrol submarine and can engage surface targets, presenting a threat to both warships and civilian vessels, particularly in the strategic choke point of the Strait of Hormuz.”
The submarine is reportedly armed with six weapons including improved North Korean YT-534-UW1 heavy torpedoes and Jask-2 anti-ship missiles, launched from four torpedo tubes. While this is a very small load by Western standards of 40 or more weapons, the midget Ghadirs only carry two weapons.
However, “in the confined waters of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz… where the larger nuclear submarines would find it harder to hide,” notes Sutton, “being small can also be an advantage.”
More importantly, Sutton adds, “Fateh may be a test bed for future, larger, Iranian boats.” Despite reports of Iran developing ‘giant submarines,’ the “next submarines are likely to still be modest in size. But Fateh appears to prove that Iran can now build workable, full-size submarines.”