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Iran Sends Warships to Cruise the East Coast. Should You Worry?

Alarum! Alarum! The Iranian Navy approacheth. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Iran has sent a fleet of warships to cruise the U.S. East Coast -- and Americans are freaking out.

The Interwebs are ablaze today frantic reports from CNN, The Washington Post, and even The Blaze, warning that a fleet of Iranian warships has rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and is sailing northwest from South Africa.

Their mission, according to Iranian naval chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari: "Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders."

(So if you've ever wondered: How do people in China and Russia, in North Korea and Iran, feel about U.S. Navy warships patrolling off their shores, armed to the teeth, and potentially looking for trouble? Now you know.)

The truth behind the headlines
The admiral's statement may sound a bit bellicose. But in fact, this "fleet" that Iran is sending to cruise U.S. shores isn't really all that scary. Consisting of one "destroyer" (that is actually a frigate) and a single OI-class supply ship to keep it running, Iran's fleet is pretty puny in the grand scheme of things.

The British-built boat, the IS Sabalan (F-73), is believed to carry an assortment of torpedoes, mortars, and machine guns -- but just one cannon and a small handful of anti-ship missiles. It's a significant threat to your average sailboat, perhaps -- but not too worrisome to the pack of American nuclear-powered attack submarines that you can be pretty certain are shadowing it as we speak.

An Alvand-class Iranian frigate similar to the Sabalan, now en route to U.S. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

While it's true that this particular Iranian warship has a "history" with the U.S. Navy -- on April 19, 1988, A-6E Intruders from the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) bombed the Sabalan, crippling the ship after it opened fire on the planes -- the chances that it's coming to America to start a new fight are exceedingly slim. And in any case, at ordinary cruising speeds it would take the Iranians nearly one full month to travel from their present location off the South African coast, to somewhere near the Port of New York -- if they even decide to complete the trip.

What it means to you
The U.S. Congress is currently embroiled in a debate over how, and how much, to fund the U.S. military. Plans have been floated to slash the number of Littoral Combat Ships ordered from defense contractors Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) and General Dynamics (NYSE: GD  ) , and to delay construction of an aircraft carrier being built by Huntington Ingalls (NYSE: HII  ) as well.

The biggest effect of today's news -- other than to give headline writers something to write about -- may be to give the Pentagon ammunition to argue against further spending cuts to the U.S. Navy's budget.

Iran's IS Sabalan (F-73) -- 45 years old, but still capable of stirring up trouble. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Psst! America has a secret weapon
So Iran is sending a black-and-white era navy to U.S. waters. So what? U.S. News and World Report says America has a secret weapon that "will drive the U.S. economy." Business Insider calls it "the growth force of our time." And in a special report titled "America's $2.89 Trillion Super Weapon Revealed," we'll tell you all about it -- and explain how to capitalize on this massive growth opportunity. Act now, because this is your shot to cash in before the fat cats on Wall Street beat you to the potentially life-changing profits. Click here now for instant access to this free report.

Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 3:01 PM, ilsm50 wrote:

    Admirals are con artists.

    A Littoral Combat Ship is a half billion buck PT boat.

    The answer to IS ship is a National Guard A-10 and a .3 sec burst from the GAU 8.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 7:38 PM, BadMommy1 wrote:

    About how many cargo ships/tankers are making a similar voyage right now? Hundreds! This Iranian "fleet" doesn't have the capability of taking Martha s Vineyard. This is a "Mad Mullah" publicity stunt designed to keep the average Iranian in fear of America.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 5:19 AM, ellaerdos wrote:

    Hope they don't break down or get lost on the way over. If that happens I guess we would have to tow them in. Gee, I hope the shipyards in Norfolk aren't to busy. Of course INS will be busy because everyone including that Admiral will be jumping ship.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 10:18 AM, WileyCoyote wrote:

    From what I can tell they have about eight ships that might be capable of surviving the an Atlantic crossing. They also have 8 diesel electric boats. I would love to see where they will get the fuel to travel that far from home and make it back. Not to mention patrol. I had to check the website a few times to make sure I wasn't reading this on the onion.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 11:02 AM, TMFDitty wrote:

    Wiley: That's the Kharg -- the supply boat, and one of the two ships making the trip. It's an oiler which will be topping off the Sabalan's tank.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 11:48 AM, carlobarlo123 wrote:

    A simile of border retreats:

    On especially hot sunny summer days, my boyhood pastime waiting for the local swimming pool to open, was to sit on a big rock beneath an umbrella with my specialized technique of covering an Ohio Blue Tip match dipped in the end of a Snickers candy bar awaiting an enormous colony of pest fire ants to descend on it, magnifying glass in hand.

    I was curiously reminded of this boyhood pastime of mine in late February, 1991, seeing American air reconnaissance photos of the aftermath retreat of the 'pest' Iraqi Nebuchadnezzar Division from Kuwait on Highway 80. It must have been a real blast for the Top Guns on the 'Highway of Death' as it was for me sitting on that big rock waiting for the pool to open.

    Some people have less of a sense of humor for pest fire ants than they do pest Iraqis and pest Iranians.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 5:38 PM, YOR wrote:

    "Americans are freaking out"? I think everyone I have talked to thinks this is a joke. The mouse giving the descending Eagle the "last resort" middle finger.

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Rich Smith

As a defense writer for The Motley Fool, I focus on defense and aerospace stocks. My job? Every day of the week, I'm monitoring the news, figuring out the winners and losers, and tracking down the promising companies for you to invest in. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for the most important developments in defense & aerospace, and other great stories.

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