by Capt Hans Uwe Mergener, German Navy (Ret) – MSD co-Editor in-Chief
If the passage of Russian nuclear submarines already caused some irritations, the entry of the largest ship of the Iranian Navy into the Baltic Sea – accompanied by an Iranian frigate – is not inferior to it.
For weeks, ship spotters had been following the itinerary of two Iranian naval units with varying interpretations of their destination. On the morning of July 22, the supply ship “Makran” slipped underneath the bridge over the Great Belt Bridge. Her escort ship, the frigate “Sahand” (see last photo, below) was already several nautical miles ahead of her. She had chosen the route through the Öresund (although we don’t know whether Iranian naval units have the liberty to choose their own path).
The two units represented Iran at the 325th anniversary parade of the Russian Navy. The commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was also present.
The converted oil tanker IRINS “Makran”, is the largest warship of the Iranian Navy. IRINS stands for Islamic Republic of Iran Navy Ship. In Iranian terminology, it is referred to as a forward base ship. Beyond general logistical support, her tasks – according to official statements – consist of conducting search and rescue (SAR) missions, supporting the deployment of special forces, providing support for speed boats or Fast Attack Crafts, replenishing fuel and other supplies, medical care, and “transporting and operating radar and missile systems.”
The latter is the euphemism for its equipment with long-range missile systems. Thus, the cruise missile ‘Shahid’ (Martyr) (or Shahid Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis in its long title) with a range of 1,000 kilometres. The other option would be the Ghadir ship-to-ship guided missile (the navalised form of the Ghader land-to-ship guided missile used by trucks) having a range of 330 kilometres. The ‘Makran’ is said to have an accommodation capability of six speedboats and/or four mini-submarines (so-called midget). In the photo (see below, seven speedboats/Fast Attack Crafts can be identified. The speedboats can be equipped with 107 mm rocket launchers. The small submarines are supposed to be able to carry special forces. 150 seals may be embarked on “Makran”. It should be noted here that in Iran’s armed forces, special forces are present both in the regular branches (army, air force, navy) and in the respective organizations (for land, air or maritime operations) of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). The Revolutionary Guards use MV “Shahid Roudaki”, commissioned in November 2020, for their support as forward base ship, she is smaller than “Makran”.
“Makran” offers capabilities for several types of helicopters: two AB 212, two ASH-3D ‘Sea King’ (sub-hunting and SAR), one RH-53D ‘Sea Stallion’. In addition, “Makran” can deploy unmanned drones. It is said to carry an unmanned aerial vehicle with a range of 1,200 kilometres. A propaganda video shows the launch of a drone, presumably a ‘Pelican’ VTOL UAV, from the deck of the “Makran” without further elaborating on its operational capabilities and its integration into the ship’s command and control system. The ship is said to have fully equipped shipboard hospital with sick bay. “Makran” was commissioned in January 2021.
Dimensions IRINS “Makran” (Hull number 441)
Length (m) 230
Width (m) 42
Draught (m) 21,5
Displacement (t) 111 530
Speed (knots) 14,5
The frigate “Sahand” belongs to the Mowj class of which four ships have been commissioned since 2010 and three more are said to be under construction. The Iranian homebuilt is considered Iran’s most modern naval unit. Construction number 2 (with hull number 77) became a total loss because of an accident. Like her two sister ships, “Sahand” (Hull number 74) has a 76 mm turret (Fajr), two launchers of the Mehrab ship-to-air missile system, four Ghadir ship-to-ship missiles and two three-tube torpedo launchers. As CIWS serves a six-barrel short-range gun (Kamand). 23mm guns (not entirely confirmed) and two chaff launchers are also installed. According to independent sources, all four Mowj ships have different radar systems. All are said to have phased array radar. For helicopter support, these frigates embark (1) Bell 214 helicopter in the ASW-role.
Dimensions Mowj-class frigates
IRINS “Sahand” (Hull number 74)
Length (m) 95
Width (m) 11,1
Draught (m) 3,25
Displacement (t) 1 500
Speed (knots) 30