The Buzz

These Are the Weapons Iran Would Use in a War Against America

Iran has a number of different types of submarines, but its growing fleet of 150-ton Ghadir-class (Qadir/Khadir) midget submarines would be especially deadly in any conflict. A variant of the North Korean Yugo and Sango-class submarines, the small size and acoustic signature of the Ghadir-class make them especially hard to detect and track. Each sub packs two 533-mm tubes for firing torpedoes, is capable of laying mines and, according to Iranian media outlets, could be used to transport and insert special forces into enemy territory.

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The subs are not of particularly high quality, but, as is often the case with Iranian naval capabilities, quantity matters. Iran has at least twenty Ghadir-class subs compared to less than a handful of its other types of submarines. These numbers are crucial for how Iran would use the Ghadir-class subs in any conflict. As Chris Harmer, an expert on Iran’s military at the ISW, explained to me in 2013, “The quietest submarine in the world is one that rests on a sandy seabed. That is how the Iranians would use the Ghadir—get it out of port, sink to the bottom of the shallow Persian Gulf, rest on the sandy bottom, and wait for a target to come to it.”

Khalij-e Fars Missile

The Khalij-e Fars anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) is another valuable component of Iran’s asymmetric naval capabilities.

Often called Iran’s “carrier-killer,” the Khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf) is a is a solid-fuel, supersonic Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) with a range of 300 km when carrying a 650-kg payload. It is based on the Fateh-110, a single-stage solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile that Iran first tested in 2002 (The Fateh-100 is based off of the China-made DF-11A).

Iranian media outlets have described the Khalij-e Fars as the “most advanced and most important missile of the IRGC Navy” and said, “the distinctive feature of the missile lies in its supersonic speed and trajectory. While other missiles mostly traverse at subsonic speeds and in cruise style, the Persian Gulf moves vertically after launch, traverses at supersonic speeds, finds the target through a smart program, locks on the target and hit it.”

The Khalij-e Fars was first tested in 2011 and has been tested regularly ever since. Iran claimed that the second test of the ASBM in July 2012 hit a moving vessel with a 30-meter precision rate. The following year, Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Aerospace Division, claimed that Iran had increased the missile’s precision from 30 meters to 8.5 meters.

Many foreign experts have been skeptical of these claims. Chris Harmer, the Iran military expert at ISW, told me at the time of Hajizadeh’s announcement that “We do not know, in open source, the exact performance specifications of Iranian missiles. This applies equally to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles, of both the ballistic and cruise missile varieties.”

Iran’s intentions with its “carrier-killer” are more transparent; Fars News Agency, which is close to the IRGC, bluntly stated the missile is “designed to destroy targets and hostile forces at sea.” Deputy Defense Minister General Majid Bokayee similarly boasted that “we witnessed the US naval fleets' retreat in the Persian Gulf after the first test on the missile.”


At the time, the decision to send IRGC officials to Lebanon in the early 1980s to help foment resistance to Israel’s occupation reeked of revolutionary fanaticism. Not only had Iran not traditionally exercised influence in Lebanon, but it was locked in a life and death struggle with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Domestically, the country was also still reeling from the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.

With the benefit of hindsight, the decision to infiltrate Lebanon seems like pure strategic genius, as Hezbollah has been the gift that just keeps giving for Iran. Time and again Hezbollah has proven to be the most versatile and usable “weapon of war” in Iran’s arsenal. And it isn’t even close.