Shahid Nazeri Deploys Near the Strait

Satellite imagery shows Iran’s high speed catamaran, Shahid Nazeri, at Bandar Abbas, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Navy (IRGCN) First Region naval base.

Bandar Abbas (February 2017, DigitalGlobe Imagery)

The IRGCN deployed the Shahid Nazeri to an operational naval base and what could be the vessel’s home port, a review of imagery suggests. The vessel has been berthed at the naval arm’s First Region HQ for the last three months.

We first caught glimpse of the boat as it arrived at Bandar Abbas near the start of Velayat 95. Given our observations, we currently don’t believe it participated in the recent military exercise. By late February, the participants departed for their respective operational areas but the catamaran remained in its berthing position. However, ongoing monitoring suggests the boat makes brief stints into nearby waters.

In mid-April, the high speed vessel was still at the naval base berthed near two recently added piers, according to Planet imagery. The piers will probably support additional fast attack craft as Iran moves further personnel to the naval region. Construction on new support structures has been ongoing at the base since 2012.

As a side note, we tracked many of Iran’s sub-surface platforms as they made their way to forward positions for Velayat 95. At least ten of Iran’s Ghadir coastal submarines were berthed at Jask near the mouth of the Strait, a deployment that also included Iran’s first indigenously developed submarine, the Nahang. This is the first time in years the Nahang has been observed on a deployment. Handhelds suggest the operations from Jask were supported with drone overwatch.

Iran’s two Kilo, which likely departed Bandar Abbas with the smaller coastal subs, were not located on imagery during the exercise. In 2016, however, we did note a Kilo deployment to Konarak, part of the Gulf of Oman’s Makran coast and an important area of future Iranian naval planning. As for Iran’s third Kilo, it remained at Bandar Abbas undergoing routine maintenance in the dry dock.

Iran’s Shahid Nazeri was initially unveiled back in September 2016 at a Bushehr-based shipyard. Local reports suggest the vessel can carry 100 passengers and a helicopter, cruise at 28 knots and operate at a range of 10,000 km. Iran emphasizes its use for long range deployments but plans to build a larger and more capable variant for special operations in international waters.

As with previous vessels, Iran continues to communicate its intent to establish itself further as a regional power and move operations beyond the confines of the Strait. Iran’s most recent statements suggest it’s building additional naval facilities on the Makran coast and wishes to establish bases in Syria and Yemen. A high-speed catamaran-like vessel could be useful in both regards. Assuming this is a technology demonstrator, watching the new vessel’s movements may provide insight as to how Iran may use an upgraded variant.

In the meantime, we continue to watch Iran’s indigenous production of defense equipment with interest. Until sanctions are removed in 2020—when Iran can acquire foreign equipment—we expect to see further developments.

An excerpt of Iran’s most recent “Return to the Sea” movements:

May 2013 – Iran’s Navy docked at China’s Zhangjiagang (FARS)
Dec 2013 – The Alborz, Bandar Abbas and Younus submarine visit Mumbai, India and Colombo, Sri Lanka for the first time (FARS)
May 2014 – Iran sends warships to Port of Sudan (Sudan Tribune)
Jan 2016 – Iran sends Alvand to participate in naval drills near Vizag (FARS)
Sept 2016 – Iranian vessels arrive in Karachi for three day port visit (Tribune)
Nov 2016 – Iran sends Bushehr and Alvand to round South Africa to enter the Atlantic Ocean for the first time; (Imagery confirms that they had to return to Durban for repairs; the Bushehr was in the dry dock in December and had departed by 24JAN17).