WAR TACTIC: Iran fires ballistic missiles from launchers disguised as standard shipping containers
02/22/2024 // Belle Carter // Views

A potential war tactic has just been launched by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) when it fired two "Fateh class" ballistic missiles from launchers that were disguised as regular shipping containers hosted aboard its sea base-like vessel. According to experts, this new "strategy" has not been seen to date but it greatly expands the reach with which those weapons could be used to strike potential targets by surprise because shipping containers can be embarked on any vessel that has the space to accommodate them.

Local and IRCG-linked news outlet Tasnim reported that the ballistic missiles that were recently launched were from Shahid Mahdavi. The Iranian Navy took delivery of the ship in March 2023 after it was converted from a state-owned and operated container ship known as the Sarvin. Video footage showing the firing of the missile seemed to be taken from cameras around the ship and a drone that captured the launch from above. It also showed the supposed resulting impact on a target of one of the missiles, causing a large explosion. At least one of the missiles went on to successfully hit its target in the central desert of Iran.

Meanwhile, an additional video released by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) also showed the launches from the control operator's position inside the ship. As per the news agency, the launch was a collaboration between the IRGC's naval and aerospace forces. The exact date on which this all occurred, which precise Fateh variant the missiles were, and the distance said missiles traversed to get to their targets, remain unclear to date.

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Open-source intelligence (OSINT) accounts on X, formerly Twitter, have pointed to various possible dates. Account user @M51_4ever, for example, noted that a peculiar 480 kilometer (298 miles) long Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) was in place on Feb. 12, which may have been connected to the launches, but highlights they could also have taken place earlier in January. However, TankerTrackers suggests that the open water seen in the footage puts the launch date somewhere between Jan. 25 and 27.

It also remains unclear which missile types were launched precisely. Tasnim noted that the "Fateh class" featured a 1,700-kilometer (1,056-mile) range, considerably longer than the Kheiber Shekan medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), which is a third-generation Fateh ballistic missile with the longest known operational range within that family at 1,450 kilometers (900 miles). Other Iranian news agencies reported that the range of the missiles was over 750 kilometers (466 miles), indicating they could have been Dezful MRBMs, which have a known range of over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).

According to sources, firing ballistic missiles from a launcher that is well disguised as shipping containers aboard a ship has major potential consequences in the case of Iran and affiliated actors having access to this capability.

"It severely complicates the tracking of potential threats; gives the enemy a greater advantage in terms of the element of surprise; allows for weapons to be positioned far forward from where they could be otherwise without being detected; and makes every ship that can carry a container a potential hostile threat. Using ships as launch platform delivery systems means targets far away that were previously very challenging to put at risk now can be with the help of many kinds of vessels, and all without the advent of new longer-range weaponry," the Warzone reported. (Related: Iran just proved it can hit Israel with "Kheibar Shekan" ballistic missiles.)

 Two IRGC missiles. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The missile test just increased Iran's naval power

IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami praised the missile test, highlighting its importance for Iran. He also praised cooperation between the IRGC navy and the IRGC aerospace force. "This new achievement has increased the range of influence and our naval power to any desired point because our ocean-going ships can appear in any part of the world and when we can fire missiles from them, there is no safe place for any power. It does not create insecurity for us," the IRGC leader said.

Now, experts are thinking about whether the IRGC might send this ship to sea to threaten shipping. While a ship like this would make a large and easy target, the U.S. would likely be reticent to confront it because the U.S. mission currently is to strike the militant Houthis if and when they target ships in the Red Sea.

"That mission doesn’t yet extend to dealing with Iran’s threats or its naval threats. Iran is alleged to have spy ships operating in the Red Sea and they have so far remained unscathed. Iran’s Behshad ship is a commercial cargo ship alleged to be a front for Iran and while the US is aware of the ship, it has not been confronted yet," reports indicated. Also, another alleged spy ship linked to Iran called the Saviz seems to be playing a nefarious role in the current Houthi attacks on shipping.

Find out about the latest news on escalating war in the Middle East on WWIII.news.

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