An Iranian Navy frigate has accidentally sunk another Iranian warship with a missile during naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman. The Iranian frigate Jamaran launched an anti-ship missile and struck the support ship Konarak.
The support ship Konarak had towed a floating missile target into place, but didn’t move far enough from the target.
When the Jamaran-launched missile honed in on the Konarak instead. The missile hit the ship above the waterline and obliterated the superstructure. The blast killed 19 Iranian Navy sailors and wounding another 15.
The missile involved was reportedly a Noor anti-ship cruise missile. Noor is an Iranian copy of China’s C-802 anti-ship missile. Its also similar to the French Exocet and American AGM-84 Harpoon.
The subsonic missile, which cruises just above the wave tops to evade radar, has a 74-mile range and a 363-pound warhead. A similar missile seriously damaged the Israeli Navy ship Hanit in 2005.
Latest photos of Iranian vessel Konarak which was hit by Iranian frigate Jamaran. As we see at the photos, all superstructure is gone. pic.twitter.com/Z5O6zZw5g3
— Naval News (@navalnewsnet) May 11, 2020
USS Mason attacked by Noor missiles
In 2016, the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Mason was attacked by Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels using what were probably Noor missiles.
Iran’s explanation for the incident—which it quickly offered—is plausible. The Noor is a radar-guided missile, meaning it has a complete radar system in the nose. Once launched from the Jamaran, the missile flies in the direction of the target ship, pinging away with its radar.
If the launching ship is over the radar horizon from the target ship, the Anti-Ship Missile must pick up the target on its own. This leaves open the possibility the Anti-Ship Missile could pick up and home in on the wrong target, which is what happened to the Konarak.
This isn’t the first time radar-guided anti-ship missiles have hit the wrong target.
A similar situation occurred in 1987, when an Iraqi Exocet missile accidentally struck the U.S. Navy guided-missile frigate USS Stark. In the 2005 attack on the Hanit, a second missile aimed at the Israeli warship hit a Cambodian registered cargo ship.
Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles
Newer missiles such as the U.S. Navy’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles can discriminate between targets and pick out the correct one. But that requires an imaging capability and microprocessing power that older designs like Exocet and Noor don’t have.
Although a tragic accident, the Konarak sinking makes one thing clear to the rest of the world: While Iran occasionally fibs about its military capabilities. Particularly new tanks, surface to air missiles, and fighter jets. Also many of its homemade weapons systems actually do work.
The Noor missile struck the Konarak exactly where it was supposed to, just above the waterline, to devastating effect. The missile Iran used to shoot down a U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone June 2019 worked, too.
Consequently the accident over the weekend was the second “friendly fire” incident involving the Iranian military in 2020. Back in January, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards air defense missile system shot down a civilian airliner by mistake. The surface to air missile killed 176 passengers and crew.