Iran maintains two primary maritime forces. The more conventional Islamic Republic of Iran Navy operates most of Iran’s larger warships and submarines and is responsible for longer range, extended-duration missions. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), on the other hand, has long focused on smaller platforms linked to asymmetric tactics in the Persian Gulf waterway and littoral zones.
In September 2022, the IRGCN took delivery of the first in a new class of heavily armed guided-missile catamarans, the Shahid Soleimani, named in honor of the former Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force leader killed in 2020 by a U.S. airstrike. The Shahid Soleimani measures approximately 213 feet long and carries the pennant number FS313-01. She is significantly larger, more heavily armed, and more advanced than any ship previously operated by the IRGCN.
Reliable details on the class remain scarce. Most available information comes either from Western speculation or official/semiofficial Iranian sources and requires a healthy dose of skepticism. Experts agree that the new vessels are aluminum construction, built domestically, and represent the first Iranian warships fitted with vertical launch systems (VLSs). Six VLS tubes under square covers are fitted in two groups of three, aft of the bridge and forward of the mast. These launchers are thought to carry medium-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), which Iran claims can engage targets out to 80 nautical miles (nm). There also appear to be eight larger VLS tubes under rectangular covers, four on each side of the square VLS launchers. Some analysts speculate these larger tubes may carry multiple short-range SAMs or potentially heavier individual weapons such as land-attack missiles.
For antisurface operations, three conventional (non-VLS) box launchers are fitted on each side of the mast. Four of these launchers are large, likely for longer-range antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs), such as the Noor with a range of 65 nm, or the Ghadir, which reportedly has a range of around 160 nm. Two of the six box launchers are smaller, potentially to carry short-range ASCMs, such as the Nasr, which has an estimated range of 19 nm, or the newer Nasir. A 30-mm gun is mounted forward of the bridge, while four crew-served 20-mm gatling guns are dispersed at various points around the warship.
The Shahid Soleimani is fitted with an aft helicopter landing deck. Three fast-attack boats can be launched from the stern. Significant efforts appear to have been made to reduce radar cross section and enhance stealth, but their effectiveness remains questionable. Propulsion is provided by four diesel engines with a reported top speed of 32 knots. Unverified claims suggest a maximum cruising range of 5,000 nm. At least four Shahid Soleimani–class catamarans are eventually planned for service with the IRGCN. The Shahid Soleimani is not the first IRGCN catamaran, but she is the largest. The lightly armed support ship Harth 55, known locally as the Shahid Nazeri and commissioned in 2016, was the IRGCN’s first twin-hulled ship. The 180-foot Harth 55 made headlines in 2021 for harassing U.S. Coast Guard cutters operating in the southern Persian Gulf.