WASHINGTON - For decades, Western navies have built ever larger, more expensive warships. Those vessels now look increasingly vulnerable to thousands of small, fast Iranian attack boats that could dominate the Gulf in the event conflict there.
In response, the US Navy has sent almost its entire fleet of small patrol boats and minesweepers to the region, hastily refitting some to dramatically increase their firepower
Concerns over the Gulf, a key oil conduit, play into a much wider debate about whether developed navies waste their money in pursuing a small number of sophisticated ships. Perhaps, some argue, they should follow the example of poorer states like Iran, who invest in large numbers of smaller ships rather than a handful of larger vessels that could be easily sunk.
In readiness for any potential war with the US Navy and regional allies, Iran's navy and Revolutionary Guard have poured resources into small gunboats.