Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Could Iran Actually Sink A U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier?

Dave Majumdar, National Interest: Could Iran Sink a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier?

The United States is accusing Iran of testing rockets near one of its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf as it passed through the Straits of Hormuz. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) denounced the Iranian actions as “highly provocative.” But could Iran actually sink one of the U.S. Navy’s mighty flattops?

According to CENTCOM, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval vessels conducted live-fire drills less than 1,500 yards away from the Nimitz-class carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) destroyer and the French frigate FS Provence on Saturday. Moreover, civilian shipping traffic was in the area.

WNU Editor: If they throw everything .... including the kitchen sink .... there is probably a very good chance that Iran will be able to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier. They will need to do it at the right place, at the right time, and with a lot of luck. But the consequences of such an action would be immense.


Jay Farquharson said...

WNU Editor,

The only "ship killer" that Iran has is their version of the Silkworm, but that won't kill a Carrier, but a swarm of them could.

The Iranian "plan" is to use multiple "swarms"'of fast boats, aircraft and land based missiles to target a Carrier Group, not counting on "killing it", but instead getting enough hits in to force the Carrier Group to cease operations and leave the Gulf and the Sea.

Don Bacon said...

Majumdar delivers a sophomoric treatise that concludes:
"While the swarming boat concept might work in exercises and simulations, it has never been demonstrated during a real war. Iran’s most effective and proven weapon to cut off the Straits of Hormuz are likely to be sea mines."

Sea mines are effective, and Iran has the latest designs. The US is weak in anti-mine warfare. The small boats are also effective. These hundreds of small boats carry Ghader missiles which have been designed to be used against large battleships and aircraft carriers. The Qader have a range of 200 km and GPS assisted and went into production in 2011. The Qader , first produced as shore-based launchers, are being also used on other platforms. They are now fitted on F-4 Phantom fighters as air-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, and on Kaman (Combattante II)-class FACs and Jamaran-class frigates.
Iran has other missiles, some land-based on the eastern edge of the Persian Guld within easy range of US warships and shore installations.
Nasr: Cruise missiles said to be capable of destroying a three-ton ship. Known to be fired from small boats, the Nasr could possibly be fired from helicopters and submarines as well.
Kowsar: A medium range (up to 12 miles), land-based, anti-ship missile reportedly able to defeat electronic jamming systems and stay on course to its target. Some reports put this as the missile that Hezbollah fired at two Israeli warships in 2006, killing four Israeli servicemembers.
Noor: A reverse engineered Chinese missile with a range of up to 100 miles.

and recently:
Sep 10, 2014 -- Iran Fielding Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles - Pentagon Report
Iran's Khalij Fars ("Persian Gulf") anti-ship ballistic missile (AShBM) is being delivered to operational units, Jane's quoted from Pentagon's annual report to Congress.
"Tehran is quietly fielding increasingly lethal symmetric and asymmetric weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and anti-ship ballistic missiles," the report's declassified executive summary said. (HIS Jane's 360, 8 September)

Jay Farquharson said...

Don Bacon,

Yes, the "analysis" is sophomoric,

But Carriers are hard to kill and can absorb a lot of punishment before sinking. They are also surrounded by support ships to fend off assaults which also must be targetted and dealt with.

However, it doesn't take much damage for a Carrier to have to cease air operations, at that point in time, the Carrier Group simply becomes a target, not an asset, and has to exit the Gulf.

fazman said...

Dont need to sink it to kill it a sunburn in the bridge and its a liability not an asset.

Jay Farquharson said...

Iran doesn't have Sunburn's yet, but there are a lot of places where a Silkworm hit would shut down air operations,

And then, yup, you just have a big target with minimal defences that either has to find a safe Port in the Gulf to wait it out in, or has to be escorted by the Carrier Group out through the "gauntlet" of the Gulf.

War News Updates Editor said...

Jay. I could not find the link (I think I posted it 5 years ago). But it was an assessment on what would it take to disable an aircraft carrier .... and what would it take to sink one. In short .... it takes a lot of direct hits to disable an aircraft carrier (air operations are the most vulnerable, and they will be the first to shut down). But to sink it .... you are talking about a few Chinese DF-21 hits .... a Chinese missile that the Iranians do not have.

Jay Farquharson said...

WNU Editor,

Yup, Carriers are hard to sink, but it's not hard to stop Air Operations, once that is done, the Carrier is out of the "fight", and in certain areas, the entire Carrier Group is out of the fight, until at least, the Carrier is in dry dock, Stateside.

Those "few" hits can take a sizeable portion, 9% of the USN out of the "fight" for a month or two.

Silkworms in the right places will do it, one torpedo hit will do it, one Sunburn in the upper decks will do it.

But yup, to sink one takes a either a few very big hits, or lots and lots of medium ones.

The Iranian's can probably only sink a Carrier with a lot of luck, but they can probably shut down air operations with out too much cost.

fazman said...

On all the refference sites it mentions that iran has sunburns
If so they are a game changer, only a couple of minutes flight time.

Jay Farquharson said...


There is some "confusion" about the "Sunburn" system, because under Soviet/Russian designations, SS-N-22 it's the launcher, not the missile.

There are two missiles for the SS-N-22, the P-80 Zubir subsonic, and the P-270 Moskit hypersonic.

The P-270 Moskit is not part of Iran's inventory.