A hurried decision not to de-commission the USS Ponce helicopter marine carrier after duty in Libya – but to refit it for deployment by May in the Persian Gulf as a floating base for commando teams – was confirmed by the US Pentagon and Navy Sunday, Dec. 29.
This transportable floating base will expand the commandos’ range in coastal areas and support counter-measure against mines which Iran has threatened to plant in the Strait of Hormuz in reprisal for the US-EU oil embargo. The SEALs will also take on Iran’s menacing fleet of military speedboats.
Debkafile reports Tehran operates four different kinds of these craft in the Persian Gulf:
1. Small, fast vessels, each armed with a small missile for striking tankers and coastal oil targets around the Gulf region, such as export terminals. Earlier this month, Tehran claimed to have developed stealth cruise missiles capable of disabling aircraft carriers with a single shot.
2. Small, extra-fast boats armed with torpedoes. Iranian publications claim several such boats are capable of stealing up on US aircraft carriers and large warships from several directions without being detected and cause serious damage.
3. Floating bombs for kamikaze missions. These fast boats cannot be deflected after locking in on target, whether on sea or shore, and explode on contact.
Iran used these floating missiles piloted by suicide squads to attack oil tankers in the Gulf in November 1987. Since then, their naval tacticians have upgraded this fleet with the technology gained from the British Bladerunner 51, a model of which Iran purchased some years ago.
Since early January, the Pentagon has reported four cases of harassment by Iranian military boats sailing close to American warships in the Persian Gulf.
4. Boats carrying teams of Iranian marine frogmen trained for secret suicide underwater missions: One member of the boat’s three-man crew dives close to the targeted ship and attaches a magnetic bomb to its hull. (more below)