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Zolfaqar's Blow: US and Iran Clash in the Hormuz Straits

Updated on February 25, 2009

A Future Scenario

Ever since the mock Iranian attack with four Fast Attack Craft upon USN ships sailing though the Straits of Hormuz in January 2008, the USN had been on alert. While American intelligence, in theory, could predict the technological level of the Iranian weaponry, and their own wargames showed USN vulnerabilities, there was always the chance element.

The USN had always been on a heightened alert when traversing the Straits, especially when they knew the Iranians had at least 70 anti-ship missiles within range. Not to mention their capability of launching ASMs (Anti-ship missiles) from aircraft platforms. Not to mention, their Chinese FACs (fast attack craft) with ASMs. The threat had always been real. The USN continued to have confidence, perhaps wrongly, that their superiority in higher technology could and would keep their ships out of harm’s way. However, in the years prior to 2010, Iran was acquiring technology from Russia, China, Taiwan and even some European nations. It was not that sub-standard, in fact, it was equal to that of the USN. Iranhad decided to attack and had practiced using “swarm” tactics. The USN had itself used such tactics in their own wargames with devastating results. It was not a good scenario for one or two US ships. It was found out that using swarm tactics greatly increased the likelihood of Iranian success, even when only Fast Attack Craft were used. That was then. Now, apply the same tactics with ASMs and the scenario was even more horrific. Iran's navy had increased and the real danger was that its FACs from China were now armed with an accurate ASM, four per FAC. By acquiring over 20 of them, the odds greatly increased that if the Iranian Navy attacked, some measure of success would occur. Numbers do prevail over any high technology counter-measures.

Peace contained the usual elements. The USN would not make a preemptive strike, that would be political suicide on the world stage. Iraq was still combative as ever. All the USN could do was be vigilant at all times while moving through the Straits of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf. High alert was the SOP for all US Navy ships traversing Iranian water. Yes, it really was not "international" water. The shipping lanes carefully navigated pass Omar, which jetted out into the Straits. Not more than 15 miles, were the first islands belonging to Iran. One was Qeshm and was home to well over 70 SAMs on mobile platforms. Fear was that Iran could quickly launch several of them and move the launchers into one of many caves as several FACs also fired ASMs. If all were fired at one to two ships, Iran hoped and the USN feared, its self defenses might fail. If only two missiles penetrated, serious damage would occur to the ship, if not sink it. If Iran attacked, they would have to make it count as America’s response would literally demolish the Iranian forces in and around the Straits. While true, America, had always been a hesitant superpower and would only reach into its arsenal when pissed off royally. History was witness to this. So, the Iranian leaders weighed the pros and cons about standing up to the "Great Satan"knowing full well what repercussions might befall upon them. In the chambers great debates were sounded. Not all Iranian officials were keen in taking on the US, even if they hated them. Iran also knew that America would never attack first, so, Iran would always have the first blow--the element of surprise that the Japanese had at Pearl Harbor in 1941. They had rockets that could hit Israel and had managed to secure black market dirty atomic bombs. Few knew this. Iran felt insulated because they could always play that missile and nuke card once revealed to the West. That would certainly be a deterrant. They could litterly destroy the world's oil supply by sending missiles into the vast oil fields less than 30 miles away. They could choke the ocean going supertankers at will. It would only take one such incident to totally have the West go into a tailspin. They could seize a supertanker and hold it as hostage.

The Iranian leaders did weighed the cons. They knew the surprise attack, if made, would have to be a "one shot" effort upon a few USN ships escorting the tankers. It would be an Iranian pearl harbor and one that might cost them dearly depending on how the West reacts once the shock wore off. Iran was very tempted to take on the "Great Satan". Some officials were much more tempted and eager than others.

Of course, none of this was news to te USN.

Past naval scenarios and evaluations showed that the USN AEGIS defense system can be overwhelmed. The CIWS defense of a ship can be overwhelmed. A USN ship can effectively deal with 5, maybe 6, incoming ASMs simultaneously. However, the system is not effective when a ship is faced with 7 or more incoming ASMs. Tests showed some will get through. Add to this mix, 3000 Iranian mines, of which, 100 are the EM53, which lie silently on the ocean floor until activated. This rocket mine has a 80% kill ability. An ominous picture for the USN, but one they faced every day when moving through Hormuz Straits.

Clauswitz told us never underestimate your enemy, as history has shown, it is the worst thing a world power can do. Remember the wicked narrows of Kalkriese in 9 A.D. The world power then was Rome and its elite 20,000 man army was massacred by German tribes thought to be inferior in a surprise attack. Rome withdrew from Germany and never returned.

Then it happened. Zolfaqar’s Blow. Iranian missiles swarmed two USN frigates escorting an oil tanker. Within minutes, missiles slammed into the USN ships causing metal to be white hot. The US ships had less than a few minutes to somehow deflect or destoy the missiles. One, two, three, four were blasted out of the sky, but damn, more came, many more at supersonic speeds. The high tech system, the best in the world, simply was overwhelmed. The escorted tanker was untouched but remained motionless paralyzed in shock. Iranian FACs reached it and seized it within 15 minutes.

For America, for the world, it was another September 11th. Now what? The world's oil was in total jeopardy.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 6 years ago

      I suspect it is true. Iran receives most of its weapons from Russia and China, then they try to enhance them. A few years back, the USN conducted a series of wargame scenarios and the result is that if more than 4-5 anti-ship missles were fired at the same ship, one would hit. Iran has hundreds of them.It will only take 1-3 ships sunk, oil tankers, to cause oil to skyrocket.

    • profile image

      NAeem 6 years ago

      Sir you are very informed, i believe israel is the danger in this scenario if the US can't get them in check then this could turn into world war 3. The russian FSB believe iran aquired 6 KH-55 cruise missiles from ukraine with nuclear tips, do you think this is true?