In 1994, Russian military contractors were handing out brochures touting their "high-speed underwater missiles." This weapon, called the Shkval, had a "high kill capability," the contractors promised. Against it, "known anti-torpedo defense system[s]" were "not effective." Someone in Tehran liked what they read, apparently. Check out today's New York Times.
Iran said Sunday that it had test-fired what it described as a sonar-evading underwater missile [video of the test here]...The new missile is among the world's fastest and can outpace an enemy warship, Gen. Ali Fadavi of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards told state television.General Fadavi said only one other country, Russia, had a missile that moved underwater as fast as the Iranian one, which he said had a speed of about 225 miles per hour.That's because this Iranian weapon -- called the "Hoot," or "whale" -- is based on the Russian Shkval, according to former Naval Intelligence Officer Edmond Pope. "I was informed in late 1990's by a Russian government official that they were working with Iran on this subject," he tells Defense Tech. "A cooperative demonstration/program had already been conducted with them at Lake Issy Kul in Kyrgyzstan."The Shkval goes so fast because it creates an air bubble around itself, essentially. The process, known as supercavitation, keeps friction to a minimum. "Instead of being encased in water," New Scientist noted, the weapon "is simply surrounded by water vapour, which is less dense and has less resistance." (Pope has more about the technology on his website. The Airborne Combat Engineer blog rounds up supercavitation speculation here.)As the AP notes, the Russian-Iranian cooperation could have major strategic consequences for the U.S. navy, possibly keeping American ships from operating freely in the Persian Gulf. "The U.S. and Iranian navies have had brush-ups during the past."
During the "Tanker War," when U.S. warships moved into the Gulf to guard oil tankers.In 1988, the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts was badly damaged by an Iranian mine. In response, the U.S. Navy launched its largest engagement of surface warships since World War II. Two Iranian ships were destroyed, and an American helicopter was shot down, killing the two pilots.(Big ups: NH, RC, Kathryn)UPDATE 12:22 PM: As Aaron and Hambling both note, Darpa has its own supercavitation project -- an ultra-fast torpedo for shooting SEALs through the seas. Defense Technology International has the scoop.UPDATE 1:39 PM: Kathryn clues us into the fact that Iran is planning to test-fire another new torpedo later today.
"Because of its high speed, this torpedo is able to strike any type of submarine at any depth," Rear Admiral Mohammad Ibrahim Dehghani told the state-run news agency Fars."This torpedo will be fired from mini-warships to combat pretend enemy submarines in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz," Dehghani said.Meanwhile, ACE digs through Ed Pope's site, and finds that "a concerted effort to develop an underwater supercavitating vehicle was begun here in the US and the Russians obtained key documents from us and reportedly bought at least one patent from a company in the US."ACE also echoes a commenter below, who says that the Germans have "developed a supercavitation torpedo which is able to intercept and destroy a Shkval."UPDATE 4:05 PM: Nick flags a quote from Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman, who reminds reporters, "Iranians have also been known to boast and exaggerate about their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities."