After years of a methodical national program Iran has finally joined the exclusive club of nations able to design and build large submarines. Starting with very crude midget submarines in the 1980s, the Iranian indigenous submarine program has progressed through several midget submarines and now, with the commissioning of Fateh, full-size submarines. There has been significant external influence along the way, notably from North Korea who very visibly supplied MS-29 Yono Class midget submarines which were put into serial production locally as the IS-120 Ghadir Class. And there has also been some liaison with Russian and Chinese organizations. Ultimately however the Fateh is a legitimate indigenous product and Iran deserves some credit in this regard.
The resulting boat is all the same small and limited in comparison to contemporary submarine designs. Having said that, thanks to its larger weapons capacity and longer endurance it will, individually, be more potent than Iran's midget submarines and allow more effective operations in the Arabian Sea. It is therefore militarily useful.
IRIS-Fateh was launched in September 2013 with the hull number 961, and subsequently refitted following sea trials before being commissioned into the Iranian Navy on 17th February 2019 with the hull number 920.
Whether it will be seen as worthwhile putting into serial production remains to be seen. Possibly Iran will continue to strive for larger and more capable indigenous submarines to ultimately replace the imported Russian KILO Class which is over twice the size of the Fateh. It's also possible that Iran will focus on an indigenous ballistic missile submarine although there is currently no convincing evidence of a submarine launched ballistic missile program.
After her pre-commissioning refit Fateh was fitted for a special forces container behind the sail. The design appears to be the same as the one fitted to the Ghadir Class, and can be used for inflatable boats and stores which cannot be taken out of the submarine’s lock-out chamber.
Displacememt: 527 tons surfaced
Length: 48 m
Hull diameter: 4.4 m
Speed: 11 kt surfaced, 14 kt submerged
Operating Depth: 200 m
Test Depth: 250 m
Endurance: 35 days
Armament: 4 x 533mm (21") torpedo tubes with two reloads (6 total)
The new class of submarine is significant for several reasons. Firstly she is much larger than previous Iranian made boats and can carry at least four torpedoes. Her length is estimated to be 48m and her beam about 4.4m, giving her a displacement in the region of 500 tons.
She will be suitable for anti-ship missions but will be sorely limited against other submarines. Indications are that its sensor fit is modest (possibly much borrowed from the Ghadir although it should be assumed to likely more effective), and there are limited noise-reduction features.
The main armament is likely to be the locally produced YT-534-UW1 heavyweight anti-ship torpedo, which is an improved version of the North Korean PT-97W /YT-534-W1.
Fateh could possibly be equipped with the indiginous Jask-2 submarine-launched anti-ship missile which is was reportedly tested at Velayat-97 war games. The Jask-2 is based on the small Nasr-1 missile. In practice submarine launched anti-ship missiles are relatively short ranged unless they have off-board targeting, which is unlikely in this case, both tactically and technologically. The engagement range of the missile would be approximately 15-25 nautical miles depending on target size, limited by the height of the submarine's radar mast.
If the Iranian copy of the Russian VA-111 Shkval supercaviating rocket-torpedo, known as Hoot in Iran, enters production, then Fateh is an obvious platform. Although impressive engineering, the Shkval would be of limited use tactically. The example Iran has shown was wire guided.