Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Google Earth Imagery

GE has updated their imagery available of Persian Gulf Islands including Abu Musa, Sirri, and Qeshm.

Check it out to see the evolution of military fortifications on these islands. The high quality of the imagery is astounding.

Second Edit - April 17
Looking over Abu Musa some more, I continue to be amazed by the high-quality imagery of such an important strategic location, especially given the recent tensions between Iran and the UAE over their ownership.The HQ imagery is somewhat of a double-edged sword as it poses just as many questions as they answer.

One example of that problem is this fighting position in the south-west portion of the island. It ostensibly looks like a conventional AAA position common to the island; it is equipped with a raised concrete pad and is adjacent to a number of small ammunition storage and crew pits. Upon closer inspection though, this concrete pad is unique in that it has two distinct entry points, with what appears to be tracks leading up to the pad.(turns out, this isn't that rare of a feature on AAA sites.) More importantly, the weapon on the concrete pad looks nothing like a Zu-23-2 or GDF-series; its appearance is more reminiscent of a recoilless rifle mounted on a Jeep although it is difficult to tell for sure. This raises the question of which of the other AAA positions around the island are actually coastal defence weapons, and more broadly it raises questions about how Iran intends to fight back an amphibious assault on the beaches of Abu Musa because they've certainly prepared for such a contingency.

First Edit

Abu Musa
The island's port has seen significant construction between 2006 and 2011. This includes a fort that shares several design features with the forts on the Iran-Afghanistan border such as circular turrets located at opposing corners. To the east is another fort, this time within a security perimeter, indicating high-value of some sort; a trench connects the building to a second fenced-off area with several dome objects within them. GPS jammers perhaps, or other communications or EW devices? To the west of the large fort is another building that is somewhat obscured by dirt; perhaps an attempt at deception, or maybe the IRGCN has adapted what we in the northwest call a 'living roof' and are now going the eco-sustainable route for power-projection. West of this is a blue shed and boat-ramp identical in design to the dry-docks used by the Iranian military elsewhere. A substantial jetty provides protection for a fairly substantial fleet of HSPBs, including a decent number armed with navalized rocket launchers. North of the jetty is a large building of indeterminate purpose. Any guesses on what this might be, mundane or otherwise?

Abu Musa port facilities

Two different examples of Iran-Afghanistan border forts

The south-eastern tip of the island has seen the construction of a wide array of beach defenses and defensive fortifications. Unsurprisingly, they are placed to defend against the most likely direction of an amphibious assault to seize the islands. The sheer quality of the imagery available on Google Earth illustrates just how much Iran has turned the island into a pin-cushion; there are trenches cut into the top of earthen revetments connected to pillboxes and other fighting positions. Bunkers and strongpoints are set at regular intervals. Further inland are pre-prepared firing positions with attached bunker, likely for rockets, ASCMs, or other artillery. AAA positions, often with protected fighting positions and control centers, dot this area.

The HAWK battery that was transferred to the island in the 90s appears to have been reactivated in some form or another and there are now a handful of support buildings and networking cables.


  1. Thanks for informing.

  2. Thanks! I am just mad that Google doesn't update satellite images more often and it isn't easier to find when and where are the latest updates....

  3. When you talk about the building north of the jetty do you mean the blue roofed one? That one seems to be some maintenance building(judging by the ramp leading up to it...)
    Not much i could add! keep up the great work!

  4. Anon
    I'm looking at the brown-roofed building on the opposite side of the road from the blue shed; it's the largest one in the upper-left corner of the first screenshot.

  5. Galen check out this fort @ 2:11 :

  6. Thanks Anon

    Note the largely similar construction techniques between the forts even though they have unique layouts: use of towers, crenelated walls, firing ports, that sort of thing.

  7. Hey Galen,

    I think that AAA emplacement might actually be sporting a Zeus with a couple armored plates welded on, hence the distorted profile. This seems to be the standard on the SPAAG Borag derivatives - , so it wouldn't surprise me if the practice has been applied to emplacements to. If the IRGC guys really feel the islands are in danger of invasion it makes sense they would supply such a dual purpose position with extra protection versus small arms.