Deadly Iranian submarines could launch torpedo attacks on ships in the Gulf, Royal Navy submarine commander warns
IRANIAN submarines pose a ‘credible threat’ to British shipping and could launch torpedo attacks on vessels in the Gulf, a former Royal Navy submarine captain has warned.
The chilling claim comes after two ‘mini-subs’ were reportedly spotted preparing to launch from the Republican Guard’s submarine base at Bandar Abbas in the Strait of Hormuz.
The boats, believed to be from Iran’s fleet of 23 Ghadir-class submarines, are 95ft long, weigh about 115 tonnes and are equipped with two torpedo tubes.
Commander Ryan Ramsey, who has operated in the Gulf on several occasions and captained nuclear submarine HMS Turbulent there in 2011, said the boats could cause a ‘catastrophic loss of life’ if unleashed.
Speaking to The News during a visit to Portsmouth today, the retired 50-year-old submariner warned: ‘The Iranian submarines are a threat that puts uncertainty into western forces that operate there.
‘They wouldn’t stand a chance if they’re going to try and chase Royal Navy or US Navy submarines.
‘But if they’re there to sink ships, they could do that. The Ghadir-class are tiny submarines but have enough torpedoes to sink a couple of ships.’
The American government has warned ships across the Gulf of the ‘possibility of Iranian action against US maritime interests’ in the region.
It comes after a US drone strike killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
Iran’s supreme leader vowed to take revenge on those responsible, with senior Iranian military officials claiming to have 35 American targets in its sight.
Boris Johnson gathered his cabinet this morning for the first time since the dramatic US strike that killed Gen Soleimani on Friday.
He stressed to his senior ministers the 'importance of protecting British citizens and interests and deescalating tensions', his official spokesman said.
It comes amid claims evacuation plans are being prepared for UK personnel in the region – which the Ministry of Defence has refused to comment on.
Meanwhile, foreign secretary Dominc Raab flew to Brussels for talks with his European counterparts as the crisis deepened.
As he left RAF Northolt, he told reporters: ‘We want to de-escalate the tensions. We are concerned that if we see a full-blown war it would be very damaging and the terrorists - and in particular Daesh (Islamic State) - would be the only winners.’
Two Royal Navy warships, frigate HMS Montrose and Portsmouth-base destroyer HMS Defender, have already been tasked by the government to provide an armed escort for British ships.
It’s claimed at least one British submarine could also be in the region.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace is due to update MPs about the situation after previously insisting the government would ‘take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens’.
Defence experts have warned Iran could now seek to disrupt the Gulf by laying mines in the Strait of Hormuz.
Dr Sidharth Kaushal, a research fellow at the London-based think thank the Royal United Services Institute, told The News: ‘Iran probably can not shut down the straits completely - a mining operation of this scope could not be carried out surreptitiously and would in any case be too escalatory for an Iranian regime that wishes to retaliate in kind for Solemani's death but not start a war.
‘That said, limited mining operations might have value for Iran even if they cannot substantially alter traffic through the straits if they panic the markets and drive up the price of oil, for example.’.
More than a fifth of the world’s crude crude oil travels through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.