The deadly battle 33 years ago shows how devastating the war between the United States and Iran can be.


Iran Navy Mantis

The Iranian frigate IS Sahan was attacked by three harpoon missiles and cluster munitions on April 19, 1988, by an aircraft from USS Enterprise. U.S. Navy

  • In April 1988, the United States attacked Iran in the Persian Gulf in retaliation for the mining of US ships.

  • Operation Praying Mantis, the largest US Navy action since World War II, was short but deadly.

  • Thirty-three years later, the weapons that each side would use were only more destructive.

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Just before 8 am on April 18, 1988, members of the Iranian Navy of the Army of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGCN) stationed at the Sassan and Siri oil platforms in the Persian Gulf from a US Navy vessel thousands of yards away I received a warning.

“I have five minutes to abandon the platform. I’m going to destroy it at 0800,” the warning said.

Some Iranians boarded the ship and fled, while others began installing guns. After 8 am, the platform was hit by gun battles from US destroyers, frigates, and guided missile cruisers.

They were the opening shot of Operation Praying MantisRetaliation for the mining of Iran in the Persian Gulf, which damaged the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts a few days ago.

This was the largest naval action in the United States since World War II, and for the first time warships engaged anti-ship missiles.

Tensioned bay

Navy helicopter tanker war

On October 22, 1987, a US Navy minesweeper helicopter led the 12th Kuwait Tanker Fleet, which was relaunched in the United States. Norbert Schiller / AFP via Getty Images

Tensions were very high in the Persian Gulf in the late 1980s. Iran has been in a brutal war with Iraq since September 1980, and Iran has regained its territory lost early in the war, but by 1983 it was in a stalemate.

In 1984, Iraq began attacking Iran’s oil tankers and facilities to damage Iran’s economy.Iran responds in kind, and eventually foreign ships are so-called Tanker war..

Iran was particularly aggressive as Iraq received financial and material support from other Gulf countries, namely Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

A swarm of IRGCN bog hammers and other small armed high-speed attack boats were their victims, along with mines and attacks from Iranian Navy frigate ships. (By the end of the war, Iran had Was attacked Approximately 190 ships departed from 31 countries, killing at least 63 crew members. )

At Kuwait’s request, the US Navy began escorting tankers that were relaunched as American ships through the Gulf. The IRGCN did not want to attack the US Navy directly and increased the number of minelayers.

The US Navy has tried to stop these efforts in several actions.

September 21, 1987, Navy Forced seizure Iran’s minelayer Iran Ajr killed five people during its mission and captured 26 sailors and 10 mines.In two engagements the following month, the Navy 3 sank With the IRGCN boat Destroyed Two oil platforms used as IRGCN bases.

Military response

Navy Samuel B. Robert Iran Mine Persian Bay

The heavy lift ship will transport USS Samuel B Roberts after colliding with the Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf on July 31, 1988. U.S. Navy

However, the Iranians continued to lay mines, and on April 14, 1988, the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts shot the mines. Ten crew members were injured and four were severely burned. The blast left a 15-foot hole in the hull and broke the warship’s keel.

The serial number of the nearby unexploded ordnance matched the serial number of the land mine captured on Iran’s Ajr. Based on this evidence, President Ronald Reagan ordered a military response. This was carried out by three Navy Water Action Groups (SAGs): Bravo, Charlie and Delta.

With two destroyers and an amphibious transport dock, four Seacobras and two UH-1 Iroquois attack helicopters, Bravo attacks Sassan’s platform.

Charlie attacked Siri’s platform with two frigate and guided missile cruisers.

Delta had a frigate and two destroyers, and was tasked with sinking Iran’s frigate Savarin or other Iranian frigate, known for its particularly aggressive attacks.

SAG Bravo and SAG Charlie landed a team of Marines and Navy Seals on Sassan and Siri, respectively, cleared the platform, and collected something of value before destroying them.

The SAG Delta ship operated in the Strait of Hormuz, waiting for an Iranian frigate to leave Bandar Abbas Naval Base.They were supported by Aircraft from Carrier USS Enterprise, Was sailing the Gulf of Oman.

Operation Praying Mantis

Iranian mantis

The main building of the Sassan Oil Platform burned after colliding with a TOW missile launched by a US helicopter during Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, 1988. U.S. Navy

At 8:04 am, a SAG Bravo ship fired at Sassan. Fifty airburst rounds from the 5-inch gun were torn to the platform, and the ZSU-23 anti-aircraft gun was destroyed shortly after trying to bring it back on fire. US ships turned off fire to evacuate more Iranians, and then fired again from naval artillery and helicopters.

At 9:25 am, the Marine Corps team moved to the platform at high speed and fixed the platform within 30 minutes. Two hours later, they evacuated and over 1,000 pounds of plastic explosives exploded remotely, destroying the platform.

SAG Charlie fired at Siri at 8:15 am after a warning was sent and some Iranians were evacuated. The platform burned and incinerated the rest of the defenders. The fire was so severe that the SEAL team’s landing was canceled.

About three hours later, Iran’s patrol boat, IRIS Joshan, approached SAG Charlie. Joshan ignored the repeated warnings and said the final warning was “Stop and abandon the ship. I will sink you.” The Iranian ship launched a Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was defeated by US countermeasures.

Marine Corps Marine Corps Zu-23 Iran Sassan Mantis

The Marine Corps will inspect the ZU-23 anti-aircraft gun on the Sassan oil platform during Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, 1988. US Marine Corps / Cpl.John Hype

Joshan was then attacked by five missiles from SAG Charlie, destroying them in the first missile duel between warships. Later, Joshan’s burnt hull was sunk by US shooting. An Iranian F-4 fighter approached, but withdrew after being attacked by an anti-aircraft missile from USS Wayne Wright.

Meanwhile, SAG Delta was looking for IRIS Savarin. Five IRGCN Boghammers attacked the Mubarak offshore oilfield in retaliation, damaging some tankers and drilling rigs. Correspondingly, Enterprise aircraft used the coordinates of the SAG Delta to attack the boat, sinking one and damaging the other four.

Later, another Iranian frigate, IRIS Sahan, was found heading for Mubarak. After firing on an Enterprise aircraft, it was torn into pieces by bombs and missiles from the A-6 attack aircraft and guided-missile destroyer USS Joseph Strauss. Sahan sank late that night.

IRIS Sabalan finally appeared two hours later and was struck by a 500-pound bomb that went directly into the chimney, causing serious damage and stopping.

The SAG Delta sought permission to end Savarin, but the Navy lifted the escalation and allowed it towed to Iran.

Another future

File Photo: Four Iranian Navy of the Army of the Islamic Revolution (IRGCN) ships, some ships for manipulating what the U.S. Navy says,

On April 15, 2020, four IRGCN vessels next to the USS Paul Hamilton, a US Navy guided missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf. Reuters

By the end of the day, the Navy had destroyed two IRGCN bases, sank three Iranian vessels, and caused serious damage to five, killing more than 50 IRGCN and Iranian Navy personnel in the process.

The American casualties were one SeaCobra and its two crew members who crashed during a reconnaissance mission.

Operation Praying Mantis gives a glimpse into what the future naval conflict with Iran in the Persian Gulf will look like.

The use of small armed speedboats to attack critical oil infrastructure and tankers, the strengthening of offshore oil platforms, the mining of critical trade lanes, and the use of Iranian Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman are widely anticipated. I will. The main tactics.

However, it is unlikely that future conflicts will proceed as smoothly as Operation Praying Mantis for the United States, mainly due to Iran. Military modernization and expansion..

Iran's mockup aircraft carrier Bandar Abbas

A satellite photograph of a simulated aircraft carrier built by Iran on February 15, 2020 in Bandar Abbas. Maxar Technologies via AP

The Iranian Navy is larger, more capable, more ships capable of launching anti-ship missiles, and at least three Russian Kilo-class attack submarines are in service.

Last year, Iran’s Navy exercises A barge designed to look like an American aircraft carrier.. January, Iran Announcement of McLean, A “forward base ship” that can carry drones and helicopters.

IRGCN too Expanding Includes its number and function, and recent reports that it is Construction of a large catamaran loaded with missiles..

Iran Mines remain powerfulBut the biggest threat is Iran’s missile arsenal, Much larger and more advanced than in the 1980s.

In recent years, Iranian missiles attack Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities and private sites, and ship.. January 2020, Iran’s cruise missile Attacked a US military base in IraqInjured more than 100 service members.

Iran’s missiles failed to reach their goals during Operation Praying Mantis, but things could change significantly in the future.

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