On August 12 2005, the crew of the Bradstone Challenger crossed the finish line at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, smashing the world record for circumnavigating the British Isles, with at time of just 27 hours and 10 minutes. Their powerboat, a 51 footer, had averaged 63 mph through the rough water surrounding the isles, reportedly making max speeds of around 83mph. The Bradstone Challenger broke the old record by more than three hours and 40 minutes, and that record still stands today.
Seven years later, after a series of secret sales, the Bradstone Challenger is now docked Bandar Abbas, on the southern coast of Iran. Western Naval forces fear the boat itself has been fitted with an array of fast attack weapon systems, and furthermore has become the basis of Iran’s new fleet of fast attack vessels. Iran’s Navy doesn’t stand a chance face to face in any confrontation with western fleets, so they’ve decided to base new tactics around small, fast boats.
American military planners understand the serious threat of these powerboats following a 2002 war game exercise in which Iranian speedboats destroyed 16 U.S. warships. Replicas of the of the Bradstone Challenger would be a particularly deadly version of that threat. The Bradstone Challenger’s designer Lorne Campbell says that precise identification is difficult in the long-range photograph (shown below). But he speculated that the boats at the new Iranian base may be more closely related to an Italian-designed speedboat.
Iran has tested these new tactics as well: In 2008, a small swarm of speedboats buzzed the USS Hopper in what then President Bush called a “provocative act”. If it were a real attack, there is no doubt most of the small boats would be destroyed, but it only takes one to break through and cause serious damage. From personal experience, there was a time I was leading a Poker Run Pack to the Bahamas and crossed the path of a US Nuclear Submarine on the surface. I would love to have known what was going through the Commanders Mind with 20 plus small boats coming at him at about 70 kts. I steered the boat I was running well aft of the sub to make sure there was no confusion with what our intentions were.
The US isn’t sitting idly by however, many new systems are coming online in US fleets to monitor and track these small fast powerboats. Despite their size, hundreds of powerboats don’t just appear out of thin air, and US Naval Ships will make sure they are not surprised.