By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
April 7, 2010
Looks like nuclear weapons aren’t the only thing the Iranian government is after. Apparently, they’ve also got a penchant for speedboats, specifically high-tech, very expensive speedboats. Multiple news sources are reporting that the Iranians have surreptitiously acquired a “James Bond-style” fast mover called the Bladerunner 51 / Bradstone Challenger.
Capable of circumnavigating the British Isles at an average speed of 61 mph, including refueling breaks, the Bladerunner 51 / Bradstone Challenger, designed by Lorne Campbell (owner of Lorne Campbell Design) and manufactured by ICE Marine (with partners Navatek), very well end up living up to its name and challenging the U.S. Navy as a serious high-speed waterborne mobile platform for launching the Iranian-developed “Hoot” (or “Whale”) “sonar-evading underwater
missile” a.k.a. supercavitating torpedo (which is based on the Russian-designed Shkval (Squall) supercavitating torpedo) against multibillion-dollar, highly-populated U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.
I know what you’re thinking, one combat speedboat should be no problem for the “unbeatable” U.S. Navy, supercavitating torpedo or not…and you’d be right, unless, of course, the Iranians plan on reverse-engineering the Bladerunner 51 / Bradstone Challenger and producing copies of it in large numbers and swarming our carrier fleets, which, of course, the Iranians, no doubt, intend to do. I mean, let’s face it, the Iranian government couldn’t come up with an original thought or idea if Islam depended on it, so purchasing and reverse-engineering other countries’ tactical military hardware/technology is the closest thing to actual innovation they’re capable of achieving. It’s the obvious move. They might need Russian and/or Chinese help to do even that (reverse-engineer the Bradstone Challenger), but they’ll probably get it. If they can get Shkval technology, they can certainly get help reverse-engineering speed boats.
Now, one might argue that even if they’re successful in producing hundreds of Bladerunner 51 / Bradstone Challenger rip-offs, small boat swarming tactics will never work against the great and powerful U.S. Navy. Really? Try telling that to Opposing Force (OPFOR) Commander, Gen. Paul Van Riper, who ripped through the U.S. fleet like a ravenous hyena feverishly devouring a giraffe carcas during an infamous training exercise called “Millenium Challenge 02“. Basically, he sank two thirds of it with “nothing more than a few small boats (fishing boats, patrol boats, etc.) and aircraft.” Gary Brecher a.k.a. “War Nerd” described Gen. Van Riper’s naval combat tactics and the ramifications (i.e. big-picture significance) of the resulting (simulated) carnage to our warships, as follows:
He kept them circling around the edges of the Persian Gulf aimlessly, driving the Navy crazy trying to keep track of them. When the Admirals finally lost patience and ordered all planes and ships to leave, Van Riper had them all attack at once. And they sank two-thirds of the US fleet.
That should scare the hell out of everybody who cares about how well the US is prepared to fight its next war. It means that a bunch of Cessnas, fishing boats and assorted private craft, crewed by good soldiers and armed with anti-ship missiles, can destroy a US aircraft carrier. That means that the hundreds of trillions (yeah, trillions) of dollars we’ve invested in shipbuilding is wasted, worthless.
Oh, but we can just sick swarms of ship-launched Marine AH-1W/AH-1Z Super Cobra, navalized AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters/gunships, and even low-cost navalized fixed-wing, prop-driven attack/reconnaissance aircraft like the Air Tractor AT-802U / CAV I Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) /close air support (CAS) aircraft on the swarming Iranian combat speedboats, and small boats (even fast ones) historically don’t fair well against attack helicopters or fixed-wing attack aircraft, right? Well, that might be true, but that’s the thing about technology; it just keeps moving forward, and guided missile technology seems to be advancing as fast or faster than any other kind of military tech–and getting cheaper and more plentiful by the day, to boot. What if all the Iranian boat crews are armed with KBM IGLA-S (“Needle-S”) a.k.a. IGLA-Super portable antiaircraft missile complex (PAAMC)/MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense System) systems? Attack helicopters and armed fixed-wing aircraft are much more expensive than MANPADS.
O.k., Super Cobras, (navalized) Apache Longbows, and AT-802U/CAV I LAARs armed with HellFire II missiles can outreach/outdistance speedboat crews armed with IGLA-S missiles, but what if the Iranians purchase a fleet of Mi-28A/N Havoc attack helicopters and Su-25SM Frogfoot Grach (Rook) aircraft to counter our Cobras, Apaches, and CAV I LAARs? Or, what if they simply augment the armed speedboats with large numbers of torpedo and anti-ship cruise missile-armed (low-cost) fixed-wing, prop-driven reconnaissance/attack aircraft (armed with the latest Russian and/or Chinese torpedoes and missiles?
That’s where the DefenseReview-recommended 21st-century-version OA-10B two-seat, navalized Northrop Grumman A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog II” ground attack aircraft (a.k.a. “Sea Hog” aircraft) and Lockheed Martin F-35B STOVL (Short TakeOff/Vertical Landing) Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft come in, attacking and killing enemy (small) fast boats, attack helicopters, fixed-wing R/A planes AND Su-25s. However, the Iranians could conceivably also acquire Chinese “Kill Weapon” ASMBMs (Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles) and advanced Russian supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, which would be very difficult, if not impossible for us to defend against, especially if they’re launched in large salvos against our carrier fleets/battle groups. Basically, the Iranian naval threat level hinges on how much oil money they can allocate to the hardware/materiel and training (operators and pilots) required. In the end, warfare is a financial transaction. It always comes down to money and resources, and who has more of them.
Fortunately, for the moment, the U.S. still has more money and resources than Iran–we think. As long as we can afford enough F-35B STOVL JSFs and advanced anti-missile and anti-torpedo ship defense systems to neutralize any Iranian Su-25SMs, Mi-28A/N Havoc helos, anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes (if they manage to get a few of them in the water)–assuming effective U.S. anti-supercavitation torpedo and anti-supersonic anti-ship cruise missile defense systems even exist at present or can be developed within the next few years (doubtful under the current executive leadership and economy)–we should (theoretically) be alright. Let’s just hope the Iranians haven’t hired Van Riper as a naval warfare consultant (Disclaimer: That’s obviously a joke. We realize Mr. Van Riper is both legally prohibited from–and, no doubt, morally principled against–assisting the Iranians in any way against the U.S. military.), and aren’t able to get their hands on the the Raptorsky (PAK FA Sukhoi T-50 5th-gen fighter aircraft) and latest-generation Russian or Chinese diesel-electric subs that are very quiet (potentially significantly quieter than nuclear subs) and potentially deadly. While it remains to be seen whether or not the Iranians have the requisite mindset, discipline, and organization for proper training and martial execution on such advanced systems (PAK FA Sukhoi T-50 and diesel-electric subs), we certainly don’t want to find out. Better that they don’t get them in the first place. The less sophisticated military armament Iran has at its disposal, the better.
Hopefully, President Obama won’t alienate the Israelis any further, ’cause we’ll probably need Israel’s help with a future military confrontation/engagement with Iran. We seem to be on a collision course. Therefore, in our opinion, the U.S. government should definitely supply the Israeli military with as many F-22 Raptors and F-35B JSFs as the Israelis need to effectively combat Iran all by themselves, no matter what aircraft and weaponry the Iranians acquire/purchase from the Russians and Chinese.
Stay tuned for a follow-up article on the very cool and interesting highly-weaponized Air Tractor AT-802U / CAV I Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) /CAS aircraft (manned aircraft) manufactured by Air Tractor and marketed by CAV Aviation. DefenseReview is a big fan of this specific aircraft and overall tactical aircraft concept (small light attack/armed recon aircraft).
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