Saturday, December 31, 2011


At this moment, Iranian submarines, warships and C 14 class missile boats are testing their might in the Sea of Oman. The saber-rattling operation is called Velayat-90 and they are laying anti-ship mines, auditioning their aerial drones, and firing missiles and torpedoes to show the world that they have the power to block oil from passing through the Straight of Hormuz. Iranian Navy's C 14 class missile boats will test fire the short range Nasr-1 anti-ship cruise missile to demonstrate their ability to destroy American warships.

But, could a spark ignite? It’s not conspiracy theory that the Yakhont (SSN-26) missile can destroy American warships. The Russian’s delivered these supersonic anti-ship missiles to Syria, despite pleas from the U.S. that they could be obtained by terrorists. The Russian’s ignored the plea. Suppose Syria surreptitiously gave one of these weapons to Hammas or another terrorist group out to destroy the Western world. What if, unbeknownst to Iran, an SSN-26 is launched against an American warship, like the US Aircraft Carrier USS Stennis, which is observing Operation Velyat-90 proceedings at this moment? What an ideal way for the crumbling regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to divert attention away from the Arab League fact-finding mission and his brutal crackdown on protesters.

In addition to the “what if” trepidations, Iran’s bellicose words add further tension to the seemingly innocuous war games. Iran’s navy chief, Admiral Habibollah Sayari, said his forces are monitoring the USS Stennis and recorded its passage form the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Oman (Iranian TV segment showed the Stennis being followed by an Iranian aircraft).

Sayari’s words were backed up by Brigadier General Hossein Salmi, the deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards. He stated to the Fars news agency, “Our response to threats is threats. We have no doubt about our being able to carry out defensive strategies to protect our vital interests- we will act more decisively than ever. The Americans are not qualified to give us permission to carry out military strategy”.

The wording of Iran’s leaders is the most disturbing, for it shows their belief system at work. Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned, “Not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz”, if the West follows through with additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Commodore Mahmoud Mousave of the Iranian navy stated the USS Stennis was “inside the maneuver zone” where his ships were conducting their exercises and added, that his navy “was prepared, in accordance with international law, to confront offenders who do not respect our security perimeters during the maneuvers”.

The US Defense Department replied, “Interference with the transit of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated and the US will act decisively to protect our interests”.

So, here we are, with the US Stennis battle group and the Iranian navy in close proximity to one another. What happens if any number of direct or circuitous happenings spark an exchange between the Iranian navy and the USS John C. Stennis, one of the world’s largest warships, and her carrier strike group in the Strait of Hormuz?

If an Iranian Nasr-1 anti-ship missile went astray, the Stennis strike group would counter with RIM-7 Sea Sparrow anti-missiles, which defend against anti-ship missiles and have been vastly upgraded over the years. They’re larger, faster, more accurate and will zero in on sea-skimming missiles with 90 lbs. of blast fragmentation explosives in each warhead.

Meanwhile, the Stennis’ 90 fighter planes and helicopter gunships would be launched and commence strafing the Iranian warships and destroy the fleet. If the Stennis was hit, the entire Iranian fleet would be sunk immediately. The Iranian C 14 missile boats would attack, prompting the US fleet’s Phalanx CIWS, close-in weapon system, to light up the skyline firing its 20mm Gatling guns and filling up the sky with armor-piercing tungsten penetrator rounds traveling at 3,600 feet per second to the tune of 4,500 rounds per minute. Iran’s missile boats would surely fire away and the incoming Iranian Nasr-1 missiles would, hopefully, be destroyed before reaching their target. No matter. At that point, the US fleet would be ordered to use the full force of their weaponry and all of Iran’s fleet would be destroyed.

Pure chaos would reign after the spark began and America’s RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) would be launched to further protect the Stennis flotilla. Scores of RAM’s screaming at Mach 2+ would maintain the retaliation and quickly find their marks.

The US would leap from defensive to offensive weapons in a heartbeat, for the stakes are too high, the earlier Iranian threats too warlike, the straight’s battle ground too cramped, with the foes a stone’s throw apart while armed with supersonic weapons. It would all be over at the speed of Mach 2+ and the Iranian fleet would descend into the depths of the Straight of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. Unfortunately, the military hotline that Washington proposed between the White House and Tehran to defuse any “miscalculations” was rejected by Iran. So, this short, concentrated, but deadly mêlée would only be the beginning.

Such military havoc in this narrow straight where tanker-filled oil passes would trigger economic mayhem. The world oil market and fragile global economies would sink faster and deeper than Iran’s navy.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes about the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). A portion of this site's ad revenues are donated to the AFIO. The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any  organization he is a member of. We're always looking for different perspectives regarding the Intelligence Community- got a thought or comment? Contact us on the secure Bpath Mail Form.  

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