Over the weekend, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei sent a tweet titled, “If any war happens …” Associated with the tweet was a staged video of Iran destroying U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf or Strait of Hormuz using small boat tactics with anti-ship missiles. This is classic asymmetric warfare which has been used by weaker militaries over the centuries to slay larger military Goliaths.
Many laugh at the crude videos Iran has produced using wooden target ships and comical artistry. However, these types of naval tactics have been very effective in the past. In the 1982 Falklands War, the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Sheffield was sunk by an Argentine, French-made Exocet missile. The threat hit much closer to home in 1987 when the same subsonic sea-skimming Exocet missile, fired from an Iraqi warplane, struck the U.S. Navy frigate USS Stark and crippled the vessel.
It is a certain fact that the U.S. Navy has the ability to defend itself from these types of threats. However, the anti-ship missiles of today are of much greater speed and lethality. New Russian technology has produced weapons flying at three times the speed of sound with much larger warheads, and Russia is about to sell Iran a whole lot of sophisticated weapons. However, let’s suppose the U.S. Navy could defeat such a missile today.
The question is, could our Navy defeat hundreds of them fired at the same time from swarms of small boats in the restricted maneuver lanes of the Strait of Hormuz?
I’m not a naval expert but it seems the jury may still be out on this question.
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