Footage of a new Iranian missile that can be launched from a submarine appears to be genuine, according to an authority on submarines and submarine-launched weapons. The new ship-killer is designed to leave a submarine encapsulated in a torpedo. The missile then separates from the torpedo, homing in on enemy ships.
The new missile, called Jask-2, is just over ten feet long with a range of only 19 miles. It's an Iranian copy of a Chinese missile called C-704 that's designed to be carried by Iranian Ghadir-class midget submarines (above).
According to submarine authority H.I. Sutton, author of the undersea warfare blog, the missile is launched in a somewhat unusual manner. “For submarine-launched missiles like Harpoon and Exocet, the capsule is expelled from the submarine and rises to the surface where the end comes off and the missile motor is ignited," Sutton explained to Seniorhelpline. "Jask-2 is unique because the capsule has its own motor.”
“Initial analysis suggested that some of the footage showed a normal torpedo being launched, with the submarine only partly submerged. This is in fact the Jask-2 capsule, which is unique in having its own torpedo motor. The motor is very short-ranged, in the region of a few hundred yards. So it's not to give it greater range. One theory is that the motor allows the weapon capsule to swim out of submarine torpedo tubes because Iranian midget submarines are not equipped with a means to eject an unpowered capsule.“
Although they're small and often denigrated for their capability, midget submarines are still a serious threat to surface ships. In 2010, the South Korean corvette Cheonan was by a North Korean midget sub firing a torpedo. Sutton says, “Midget submarines carrying normal torpedoes are probably still a greater threat than the new missile because they can sink even large ships, as the Korean Cheonan incident showed. But the Jask-2 adds a new dimension to the threat.”
Iranian naval forces, both the Iranian Navy and the Revolutionary Guards, train to close the Straits of Hormuz, and are therefore close to shipping traffic and U.S. Navy vessels. A submarine-launched missile fits neatly into this plan, expanding the underwater threat. “Iranian midget submarines would likely spend a lot of time bobbing around on the surface attempting to blend in to fishing fleets,” Sutton explained, “then submerge and shoot when a target comes into view.”