The missile boats can be seen aboard in this photograph, shared on Iranian social media. Approximately April 16-20. It is possible to see that they are, generally, matching the Peykaap's shape.
OSINT on Iranian Ship Makran, Sailing To Venezuela
An Iranian Navy forward base ship, Makran, is believed to be transporting arms to Venezuela. I was able to break the arms aspect on USNI News. This piece complements that write-up by providing a few additional OSINT elements for reference.
The sinking of the Iranian Navy's second largest warship, Kharg, may create an unintended smoke screen across the Makran affair. However defense watchers will remain focused on the larger ship. Most visible, and possibly consequential, of the arms are 7 missile boats.
Update: There have been rumors that, following the loss of Kharg, the I.R.I.N.S. Makran has been recalled to Iran. It will now complete a training mission to Russia.
Update 2: On June 4 a photo of Makran, before its trip to Venezuela, was shared on an Iranian Telegram channel. It clearly shows the Peykaap-III (Zolfaghar) missile boat. also visible are some of the anti-aircraft cannon added to the vessel.
The posts says (translated): "The Navy "Makran" navigator before being sent to Venezuela, while several Zulfiqar rocket launchers can be seen on deck (most likely to be sold to Venezuela). Like UAVs and weapons for Venezuela. The tank[er], which has not been changed at the moment (Makran used to be an oil tanker) and only a food depot and a resort have been added, has loaded gasoline for sale to Venezuela.
Update 3: On June 10 a video was shared on Iranian media (see on Twitter) showing the light frigate, IRIS Sahand, which is accompanying Makran, in the Atlantic. The video does look convincing although the location is unverified. The video was presumably taken from Makran. This reinforces rumors that Makran has not been recalled to Iran.
Images shared on Iranian Social media around the same time show both Sahand and Makran. In one image the masts of the Peykaap missile boats are evident. These images may be older, but taken together, there does not seem to be any evidence that the mission has turned around. Or that the missile boats have been transshipped. Note also that she is much lower in the water than the images of her being loaded with boats in Iran. Or during her sea trials.
For the USNI News article we were able to source some excellent high-resolution satellite images from Maxar. OSINT however is mostly squinting at blurred low-resolution images and trying to make sense of them. At least for amateurs like myself. In many respects I think that it is more interesting what can be deduced from lower resolution sources. But the Maxar images do look fantastic.
The World's ONLY Guide to
10 years of research, analyzing over 160 incidents, condensed into a handy guide. This unique book systematically breaks down the types and families. With detailed taxonomy, recognition 3-views, profiles and photos. Available on Amazon
Among the boats seen on board are fast infantry landing craft, rocket armed RIBs are Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs). Four Al-Sabehat 15 SDVs were aboard in December 2020. These are used by the Iranian SBS, mainly in relation to amphibious operations. There is no evidence that any are on board now.
Also since being launched, a crude roof was applied to part of the deck. In some images this appears to be a canvas cover, but it also appears metal in some. Possibly it has been reworked multiple times:
The most visible payload are 7 Peykaap type Fast Attack Craft (FACs). These are medium-sized missile boats which the IRGC operates in relatively large numbers. They can carry two lightweight anti-ship missiles (e.g. Nasr), and two lightweight torpedoes. The torpedoes are housed in pop-out launchers on the sides below the cabin.
As its reporting name implies, the Peykaap is derived from a North Korean design. Several IPS-16 torpedo boats were delivered c2004. This was part of the same deal that sw the MS-29 Yono midget submarine enter srvice with Iran (as the IS-120 Ghadir). The IPS-16 is known as Peykaap-I, or Zoljenah.
The missile armed variant is known as Peykaap-II, or Bavar. An improved model is the Peykaap-III Zolfaghar. There is also a newer, smaller, version which is presumably labelled Peykaap-IV.
The boats loaded aboard Makran can be narrowed down to Peykaap-II or -III.
Makran left her home base (at least as observed as the most frequent port) on April 23. She was accompanied out of the harbor by two tugs and an small boat. The 7 Peykaap type FACs were already aboard:
Makran spent a couple of weeks in the Persian Gulf before setting sail down the East Coast of Africa. On April 28 it was at Rajaei Port, near to Bandar Abbas. High resolution imagery from Maxar, used in the USNI News article, clearly shows the boats on deck. No helicopter is present although I suspect that one has been aboard. By May 3, when the Sentinel-2 satellite passed, she was gone:
Using Sentinel-1 SAR (radar) imagery we can narrow it down slightly more. On April 23, after leaving her home port, she appears to already be in Rajaei Port. By the next pass on May 1 she has gone. April 23:
Related articles (Full index of popular Covert Shores articles)
Iranian Fateh Class submarine w/Cutaway
Iranian Nahang Class midget sub
History of Israeli subs
Taedong-B 'Kajami' ('Zulfikar') submersible boat
Al-Sabehat 15 Swimmer Delivery Vehicle and related development