The Strait of Hormuz Revisited

As a possible military confrontation with Iran looms, no spot on earth is more sensitive than the Strait of Hormuz, a possible choke point for Persian Gulf oil shipments. The military installations there could have major implications.

A few weeks ago, I went to Google maps and they had updated photos of the Tunb Islands.  Full disclosure: I'm not a school—trained imagery analyst, but I can tell the difference between when it was on my front burner in the 90s and today.  Since my first article on the area, I did not think much would be done to improve the defenses, but it looks more formidable now, as mentioned in this Asia Times article.

Images were obtained from Google Maps, focusing on the Straits of Hormuz area. There are still the old Silkworn missile sites plus what looks like new C2 and target acquisition radar sites on Abu Musa.  The new missiles mentioned in the article, may in fact, be stationed there.  Chinese—made C—801 and 802 cruise missile indicators are more prevalent and the extended runway looks well maintained and clean.  No aircraft that I can tell, but the routine small ship resupply from Qeshm Island looks to be active and several missile patrol boats are anchored at the island.

The other small island to the north does not have the resolution that Abu Musa does, but now there are clear indications of more Silkworm sites than even Abu Musa had in the 90s.  The web—like road network terminating in loops or cul—de—sacs are a giveaway.  Qeshm Island looks vibrant with anywhere between seven to ten missile patrol boats and an equal number of small resupply craft.  The main airport/airfield looks in good shape, but no aircraft are visible.

The photo visible on Google Maps was taken at high noon, so I can't tell if it has hardened aircraft shelters.  There is a smaller airfield in the north, and there are definite aircraft shelters off the runway for quick dispersion for military aircraft.  A count of combat aircraft is not possible from the picture. From my previous information, I assume they're still there. 

The runway is clean and appears to be in good shape. Sizable mechanized ground forces were present for years, and there are a large number of buildings that could serve any number of uses, including barracks.  I assume at least some troops still remain.

Across the narrow channel (several breakbulk cargo ships are visible) there is the main port of Bandar Abbas.  There are about four civilian merchant ships in dock, as would be expected.  However, I count five very new amphibious warfare ships with typical helicopter landing pads on the stern deck. There are four cruiser/destroyer class ships tied up, with possibly a fifth in drydock.  There are also what seem to be six to eight fast attack boats. On the western quay, there may be another five or so fast attack boats and another ampibious assault ship.

The Bandar Abbas airfield is defintiely home to six large Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) and one small LCAC.  The facility is very modern and allows hardstand loading and transition direct into the water.  There are six medium transport helicopters visible that look to be too big to be the Iranian reverse engineered Bell Helicopter type "Hueys."  Perhaps they are MI—8s. No fixed wing aircraft are visible, but again, I can't see into the hanger buildings nor are hardened shelters readily visible.

It seems that the Iranians still can't match up against the US Navy, but they haven't been standing still either.

Hat Tip: Joe Crowley

Douglas Hanson   11 19 06

As a possible military confrontation with Iran looms, no spot on earth is more sensitive than the Strait of Hormuz, a possible choke point for Persian Gulf oil shipments. The military installations there could have major implications.

A few weeks ago, I went to Google maps and they had updated photos of the Tunb Islands.  Full disclosure: I'm not a school—trained imagery analyst, but I can tell the difference between when it was on my front burner in the 90s and today.  Since my first article on the area, I did not think much would be done to improve the defenses, but it looks more formidable now, as mentioned in this Asia Times article.

Images were obtained from Google Maps, focusing on the Straits of Hormuz area. There are still the old Silkworn missile sites plus what looks like new C2 and target acquisition radar sites on Abu Musa.  The new missiles mentioned in the article, may in fact, be stationed there.  Chinese—made C—801 and 802 cruise missile indicators are more prevalent and the extended runway looks well maintained and clean.  No aircraft that I can tell, but the routine small ship resupply from Qeshm Island looks to be active and several missile patrol boats are anchored at the island.

The other small island to the north does not have the resolution that Abu Musa does, but now there are clear indications of more Silkworm sites than even Abu Musa had in the 90s.  The web—like road network terminating in loops or cul—de—sacs are a giveaway.  Qeshm Island looks vibrant with anywhere between seven to ten missile patrol boats and an equal number of small resupply craft.  The main airport/airfield looks in good shape, but no aircraft are visible.

The photo visible on Google Maps was taken at high noon, so I can't tell if it has hardened aircraft shelters.  There is a smaller airfield in the north, and there are definite aircraft shelters off the runway for quick dispersion for military aircraft.  A count of combat aircraft is not possible from the picture. From my previous information, I assume they're still there. 

The runway is clean and appears to be in good shape. Sizable mechanized ground forces were present for years, and there are a large number of buildings that could serve any number of uses, including barracks.  I assume at least some troops still remain.

Across the narrow channel (several breakbulk cargo ships are visible) there is the main port of Bandar Abbas.  There are about four civilian merchant ships in dock, as would be expected.  However, I count five very new amphibious warfare ships with typical helicopter landing pads on the stern deck. There are four cruiser/destroyer class ships tied up, with possibly a fifth in drydock.  There are also what seem to be six to eight fast attack boats. On the western quay, there may be another five or so fast attack boats and another ampibious assault ship.

The Bandar Abbas airfield is defintiely home to six large Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) and one small LCAC.  The facility is very modern and allows hardstand loading and transition direct into the water.  There are six medium transport helicopters visible that look to be too big to be the Iranian reverse engineered Bell Helicopter type "Hueys."  Perhaps they are MI—8s. No fixed wing aircraft are visible, but again, I can't see into the hanger buildings nor are hardened shelters readily visible.

It seems that the Iranians still can't match up against the US Navy, but they haven't been standing still either.

Hat Tip: Joe Crowley

Douglas Hanson   11 19 06