Iranian underwater missiles

Defense Tech has a great post up on the Iranian ‘Hoot‘ supercavitating torpedo and its roots in the Russian ‘Shkval’. The ‘Hoot’ is apparently capable of speeds greater than 200 miles per hour. The Iranians have a number of missile boats, the primary force in its small surface fleet. These would probably be quickly destroyed in a conflict with the US Navy, but more troubling would be submarines. The ‘Shkval’ can be fired from submarine’s torpedo tube, though I’m not sure about the Iranian ‘Hoot’. The video released by Iran shows it being fired from a surface vessel.

The Iranians purchased three Kilo-class diesel-electric boats in the mid-90s and the Russians have upgraded them at various points. Pic of one on its way to Iran in the extended entry.

Russian-built, Kilo-class diesel submarine recently purchased by Iran, is towed by a support vessel in this photograph taken in the central Mediterranean Sea during the week of December 23. The submarine and the support ship arrived at Port Said, Egypt, on Tuesday and were expected to begin transiting the Suez Canal today, Jan. 2, 1996. Ships and aircraft from the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet are tracking the submarine, which has been making the transit on the surface. This is the third Kilo-class submarine the Iranians have purchased from Moscow. DoD photo.

Note the towing lines. Pic from the DoD’s January 1997 archive.

UPDATE: See Strategy Page’s Iran’s High Speed Torpedo Scam


  1. Yeah, I read about this just before you posted it. While the speed is a great factor if you wish to kill something, I doubt it is that effective a weapon. While I have no actual knowledge, I can only presume that this has a terrible turning circle. Supercavitation is a very efficient way to travel underwater. If the object is to be steered, it will require either placing a fin or something else into the surrounding water. The other option is to change the supercavity to promote diversion in another direction. Both these methods will take tremendous amounts of energy to actually ‘home’ into a moving target that isn’t following a predictable path. This should slow down the torpedo significantly, as doing this would require the rocket motor to burn longer till impact and thus reduce the range. To me this looks like a sort of ‘artillery piece under the sea’. About the subs, I should think they are constantly being monitered by other subs and/or aircraft. Anyway, if they are in the state that the Iranian Air Force is in, we have little to fear. Their pilots are refusing to fly at times, simply due to the terrible condition the aircraft are kept it. Hence why they recently blamed the US for a C-130 crash.

  2. Oh yeah, at a measly 200 mph, I’d just take my big old 30 gagillion ton ship capapble of 35 kts and side step that mean old torpedo like a ballerina. Of course, it’s all just speculation that this thing isn’t maneuverable, so oops, we could be double screwed. I often wonder what’s going to happen when we run out of ways to spin the technological advances of those who don’t have our best interests in mind. Do you think maybe then we will have to stop resting on our 30 year old laurals and start producing weapons that actually make sense as something other than public works projects then? Nah, me neither. I’m encouraging my kids to learn second languages. Whaddaya think, Spanish, Farsi, Chinese?

  3. Comrades, I spent my entire Navy career in ASW operations, so I can speak from a pulpit of experience, althougha bit dated. Of course, the super-cavitation torpedo has a rediculously high speed and a rather large warhead. It needs it, though, as it is extremely difficult to steer. It moves like a bat out of hell in a straight and narrow line, and the time to impact from launch is wicked short. However, there are always trade-offs. The problem with super-cavitation is it all but destroys the ability to acoustically home in on your target. Our torps depend upon a good speed, a reasonable warhead, and highly accurate targeting, based upon acoustic tracking, to kill the target. The Super-cavitation depends upon the target being unable to detect the launch until it is too late. It’s like comparing a 30.06 rifle to a compound bow. Both will get the job done, but one requires more stealth than the other. As to the Iranian’s ability to effectively use their diesal boats, that remains to be seen, It’s hard to track a battery once it goes sinker, but it can only stay down for so long. Eventually it has to surface and fire up it’s engines to recharge the battery. Nuke boats can stay down indefinately, and wait out the conventional boat. We used to carry the B-57 depth bomb. It’s a low-yeild tactical nuke designed to take out a boomer. All you had to do was get close and the overpressure would do the rest. the super-cavitating torpedo is akin to that. It’s a weapon designed for a navy that doesn’t have the technology to compete with potential combatants. Another drawback to the super-cavitating torpedo is that it’s like shining a flashlight in a dark room. Everone can track the beam back and find you. Conventional subs have advantages, but speed isn’t one of them, and as soon as that torp is in the water, that boat has gone from hunter to target. This new weapon is one to be respected, but it’s nothing new nor anything that hasn’t been trained against. The Soviets probably sold the technology to the Iranians, but the US Navy has been working on counter-measures for years. Like I said, respect, but don’t fear. Respects, AW1 Tim

  4. Fellers, To be honest, I suspect that it was never designed as a contact weapon, but as an area weapon. The sub (or whatever) launches the weapon towards the estimated position of the target based upon course and bearing and has a warhead set to detonate at a predetermined time. I doubt it has a command detonation device, as there are no wires conected, and it’s virtually impossible to send transmissions electronically underwater through combat conditions. The weapon most likely uses a large warhead to create an overpressure on the target and rupture the hull, damage propulsion and/or steering. That’s my 2-cent’s worth. The weapom depemds upon both the launcher remaining undetected, and the ability to close to a range sufficient for the high sped of the weapon to be an advantage. If the launching platform is detected, then the game’s up. If the target is too distant, then it has time to detect the weapon and attempt to maneuver away. The comments about the weapon having a relativily short range and that target counter-measures would be useless against it serve to further confirm it has an area-detonation warhead, since countermeasures work against acoustic-homing torpedoes. Respects, AW1 Tim

  5. Actually one design I saw (the Russian one I think?) did have a trailing wire, almost certainly for command detonation and possibly for some rudimentary steering. Still, I think it’s effectively a form of suicide weapon. You might hit your target with it but you’re sure to attract every airborne ASW platform within a few hundred nautical miles which will happily send several dozen torpedos up your wazoo. Not the kind of thing I’d want to be firing at any well-equipped navies…

  6. A super captivating torpedo- assuming they can get to work, will alter the balance of power vs the Navy. Are manuverable? yes, assuming thta you can some serious computing power on board. The air ‘shell’ can be shaped to act like a rudder. To do this and keep the low drag envelope stable is very difficult. Most likely the Iranian torpedeo has a limited manuver ability. Guidance – No on board guidance – you can still have wire guidance and control. Possible depoloment – low speed launch to a position several miles from the mother sub – then you fire the torpedo. suiside fire and forget – ships Torpedo mines Counter measures? standard. That said, this is a ambush weapon. A sub resting on the bottom of gulf. Launching the torpedo within 10-15 miles of the carrier. No time for effective countermeasures. There is one program that will work, we should install RAMICS rounds on the ship based defense systems. RAMICS is a supercaptivating 30MM round that can be fired from air vs underwater targets. Basically a CIWS vs torpedoes.

  7. And yes, given that it has such short range, you have to sneak up on your target to use it. Which frankly is unlikely with the excellent Sonar on today’s Western subs. Especially since, as someone pointed out, Diesel subs can’t go very far/very fast while submerged since they’re on battery. A low-tech regular torpedo may be slow but it’ll outrange these underwater rockets, so as long as you can detect them early enough they can’t possibly hit you, but you can hit them. Not a good situation for them to be in, really. It’s like stalking a guy with really good hearing – you have a pistol and he has a rifle. Unless you can catch him unawares your turkey is cooked.

  8. Remeber the terrain – The persian gulf is shallow water zone. In these zones, Diesel subs can and often are superior to our nuke subs. In sub warefare, speed is poor second to quite. A diesel sub sitting on the gulf bottom is practically impossible to detect at a meaningful range. Given the introduction of fuel cell tech to the submarine – you can make a serious argument that air independent subs should take over the role of the nuclear attack subs. (not the boomers)

  9. While we clearly all think pretty much down the same lines of the performance in range and agility, what would the target be? The only target that would be stationary enough would probably be an aircraft carrier. That carries a whole fleet of support vessels (including 2 subs I think). But then again, if they were to hit 3 carriers with their 3 subs (presuming a suicide mission). That would be a hefty blow, not that it would be unrecoverable, but it would leave the USN really exposed in the gulf. Maybe that is their plan?

  10. 2/3s of the worlds oil transits the SoH. When you go thru that strait, on one side you see the Iranian coast and on the other Oman’s. Think soft targets. The targets will be VLCCs. Easy meat. Iran’s war plans have always included closing SoH.

  11. Mind you, if they get a shot at a birdfarm, they will take it. But, do not think conventional warfare. Iran knows it would lose conventionaly. Think economic warfare. Asymetric war…

  12. But do you need a supercavitating torpedo to sink a supertanker? Seems that there would be a lot of simpler and more reliable methods for that. Not that I think they would fight a conventional naval war, mind you. But they shoot a TV spot of their new ‘super missile’ and hype it up as some big deterrent. Maybe they even believe it. While the idea is cool, I’m skeptical that the Iranians have the capability to field it effectively in the near future. But they trot out some test footage so we take it into account. Which I imagine we were already. Remember Saddam’s super guns?

  13. I remember Saddam’s super guns. I remember that if we hadn’t sabotaged them, they would have been a problem. I remember a disgruntled US weapons designer went over there and just about made them operational before sanctions stopped the flow of parts. You don’t suppose Iran could be planning on using these stealthy, wing-in-ground effect vehicles to launch their cavitating missiles? Nah, they wouldn’t do that. But if they did…

  14. I wonder if they’re looking at it as a way to get a nuke close enough to a birdfarm(I just love that term) to take it out, whereas no other way they have could do it?