Iran bolsters retaliation capability in Persian Gulf, experts say

Stringer/Iran/Reuters – Military personnel place a flag on a submarine during the Velayat-90 war games by the Iranian navy in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran December 27, 2011. Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines.

Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines, U.S. and Middle Eastern analysts say.

Iran: Small ships, big threatThe new systems, many of them developed with foreign assistance, are giving Iran’s commanders new confidence that they could quickly damage or destroy U.S. ships if hostilities erupt, the officials say.

Although U.S. Navy officials are convinced that they would prevail in a fight, Iran’s advances have fueled concerns about U.S. vulnerabilities during the opening hours of a conflict in the gulf.

Increasingly accurate short-range missiles — combined with Iran’s use of “swarm” tactics involving hundreds of heavily armed patrol boats — could strain the defensive capabilities of even the most modern U.S. ships, current and former military analysts say.

In recent weeks, as nuclear talks with world powers have faltered and tensions have risen, Iran has repeated threats to shut down shipping in the oil-rich gulf region. Its leaders also have warned of massive retaliation for any attacks on its nuclear facilities, which the United States believes are civilian covers for an Iranian drive to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability.

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