By David Axe
June 5, 2020
On May 12, an errant Iranian navy anti-ship missile struck a navy support ship during a test, killing 19 sailors. The Iranian government eventually admitted to the incident but never explained exactly what went wrong or what technology was involved.
Now one former Iranian missile worker claims to know.
The missile that struck the support ship Konarak was a new version of the C-802A anti-ship missile, according to Babak Taghvaee.
Taghvaee is a former Iranian air force researcher who also worked as a contractor for a military-owned defense company that modified air force Mirage and F-4 fighters to carry the C-802.
Taghvaee said he spoke to ex-colleagues who have knowledge of the May 12 accident. He said they told him that Shahid Fassihi Industries is working on a variant of the 120-mile-range C-802A that replaces the missile’s current DM-3B radar seeker with an infrared seeker.
The DM-3B is vulnerable to U.S. Navy jammers, Taghvaee said the missile workers told him. Hence the new seeker.
But the infrared seeker is a closely-held secret, according to Taghvaee. When the navy prepared to test-launch the upgraded missile from the corvette Jamaran, it didn’t give the usual advance notice to shipping and aircraft in the Persian Gulf test zone.
It’s unclear whether the secrecy is to blame for the accident. The test missile apparently mistook Konarak for a nearby target barge.
If Taghvaee’s sources are reliable, it could mean Iran has a new kind of anti-ship missile. One that could be harder for the Americans to jam.
But it’s also possible—and this is putting it lightly—that the missile doesn’t work quite yet.