Key point: In terms of ‘civilian boats,’ the IRGCN musters hundreds of fast-in-short boats are on the pattern of the open-cabin ‘Boston Whaler’ motorboat, typically fitted with unguided rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and recoilless rifles.
On May 16, 2019, U.S. officials cited reports that Iran had installed missiles on civilian motorboats in the Persian Gulf as a justification for a major deployment of U.S. military forces to the Middle East.
However, this claim may ring a bit strangely to observers of Iran’s military, as employing swarms of heavily armed motor boats to launch asymmetric attacks on maritime assets has long been understood to be its naval strategy—one that Tehran hasn’t exactly been shy about publicizing.
Take, for example, this video which depicts a swarm of rocket-armed boats unleashing a hail of rockets upon a giant mockup of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
Besides the rocket-armed motor boats, note also the presence of anti-ship ballistic missiles (detailed in this article) and other assets that could be cued to hit naval targets.
In another ironic incident, a U.S. military diagram explaining Iranian tactics was founded and adopted by Iranian media to advertise its military strength (and was then breathlessly reported in the U.S. as a “new” Iranian threat.)
The U.S. Navy even designed its Littoral Combat Ships with countering Iranian fast boats in mind—to its current regret as it re-orient to “great power” conflict.
Both civil and military shipping in the Persian Gulf is exceptionally vulnerable to mines, cruise missiles and fast boat attacks because its shallow straits force large ships to squeeze through predictable lines of transit.