Iranian micronaval developments
Successful penetration of the Iranian naval establishment has revealed a covert program charged with developing an advanced micro autonomous undersea vehicle (m-AUV).
The program, known as "Qom," is said to be well-funded and staffed by some of the brightest minds in Iranian scientific and engineering circles. Specifications, performance characteristics, and time to completion are unknown at this time, however, it is clear that Tehran has made the acquisition of an unmanned undersea capability a strategic priority.
This is not surprising, given what we see as a broader shift in Iranian force structure - a shift toward lower cost, higher yielding platforms, with a growing emphasis on unmanned systems. We are witnessing this play out in the IRIAF, where, rather than upgrade its aging and largely obsolete fleet of combat aircraft, Iran is opting for a far cheaper and, in many ways, more effective alternative in the form of UAVs, such as the Shahed 129. It should also come as no surprise, then, given Iran's emphasis on submarines in advancing its strategic objectives, that Tehran would seek an unmanned undersea platform to augment its current strategy of coastal defense and regional power projection.
While not surprising, Tehran's interest in micro-AUVs should be of great concern to policymakers, as such a system would not only bolster Iran's capabilities in its own backyard, including the potential capability to roll back U.S. influence, and to arm its proxies in the Mediterranean, but to project power well beyond the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf.