Iran unveiled a new ship over the weekend called the Shahid Roudaki. It is part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was given a spotlight at Bandar Abbas port near the strategic Straits of Hormuz on Thursday. The ship is so interesting to Iran watchers that the United States Naval Institute ran a story about it. On its surface this is just a transport ship, but Iran has crowded its deck with all sorts of weapons to show off what it can do. According to aerial photos and description the ship has been packed with multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) that are mounted on fast boats. There is also an advanced 3rd Khordad air defense system and helicopters, as well as drones and anti-ship missiles. It’s a floating armory, or a floating “bazarr” as one report noted.
The Bell 412 helicopter appears to be one of those old American helicopters that Iran has because it once had a bell helicopter Textron factory under the Shah. The 3rd Khordad system is more recent. It was used to down a $200 million American Global Hawk drone in June 2019. The six Ababil drones, noted in the photo, are part of Iran’s expanding drone arsenal. Iran used drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia in September 2019. Iran has also sent drones to Syria and used them to threaten Israel and provided them to Hezbollah. According to H.I Sutton, who wrote the USNI news piece, the ship has four Qader anti-ship missiles, the Iranian version of the Chinese C-802. The ship is 492 feet long and 72 feet wide. It also has a 23 mm anti-aircraft guns. “It seems unlikely that these systems would be arrayed like this in normal operations. The small boats may be a common feature, but the other systems appear only representative of her potential capability and role,” Sutton writes. The assessment is that this ship is capable of long range missions and support.Iran has a relatively weak navy. It relies on the IRGC fast boats to harass US ships. The US warned the fast boats to stop harassing American ships in the spring and US President Donald Trump threatened to sink the Iranian ships. Iran has been training recently against a mock US aircraft carrier, a giant model it keeps sinking and strafing to show off. But Iran’s navy is no match for the American Fifth Fleet. The US Navy’s Nimitz Carrier Strike Group recently left the Persian Gulf to train with Japan, India and Australia for a drill called Malabar. The US is increasingly working with India on regional security. India is also a close partner of Israel and the UAE. US carriers can be at sea for a very long time. The Abraham Lincoln was at sea for 295 days, during which it also went to the US 5th Fleet base in Bahrain. US ships such as the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and USNS Wally Schirra and USS Winston Churchill are in the area as well.