Excerpt from book by

Tom Muffin

about

Iran - Iraq Naval and Air engagements

OPERATION MORVARID: THE STRIKE AGAINST AL FAW

Before the onset of the rainy season in 1980 brought a break in the fighting Iranians showed one more time what kind of operations their regular armed services were still capable of. After the technicians of the IRIAF and the IRIAA prepared as many planes and helicopters as possible, on the afternoon of the 28 November Phantoms and Tigers began a new series of strikes against Iraqi airfields around Basrah, and during this operations shot down one defending MiG-21. So began the Iranian operation Morvarid. During the night hours of the 29 November 1980, at least six ships of the Islamic Revolutionary Iran Navy's (IRINA) Task Force 421 landed a party of Marine Commandos on the Iraqi oil terminals at Mina al Bakr and Khor-al-Amaya. The swift operation, supported by AH-1J Sea Cobras, AB.214 Isfahans and CH-47C Chinooks of the IRIAA, took the enemy completely by surprise. During the short gun fight, most defenders were gunned down. After that, the Marines placed a large number of bombs and mines before being evacuated by helicopters. A series of fierce explosions shattered the air, as further Iraqi oil installations - and very important early warning bases - were going up in flames.

At the same time, two Iranian missile boats of the Combattante II class, Peykan and Joshan, blocked the entrance into the ports of Al Faw and Umm Qasr and shelled both facilities, where meanwhile over 60 foreign ships were blocked.

The Iraqi Navy was compelled to react, and in the morning, two groups of her P183 (NATO Code P-6) motor-torpedo boats, and five P205/205A (NATO Code Osa I/II) fast-attack crafts started a counterattack. Both Iranian and Iraqi ships exchanged intensive missile fire, with Iranian BGM-86 Harpoon missiles scoring several hits and sinking two Osas. After a while, however, Peykan was attacked by three further Osa II boats and the crew called the IRIAF for help. Immediately, two Phantoms, both armed with six AGM-65A Maverick air-to-ground missiles, were scrambled from Bushehr and send to the north. However, they couldn't reach the scene of the naval battle before Peykan succumbed to the hits of two SS-N-2 Styx surface-to-surface missiles. Outraged, two Phantoms crews opened fire at every Iraqi ship that could be found: three Iraqi Osa IIs as well as four P-6s could be sunk in less than five minutes! One of them got three Maverick-hits and exploded in a brillinat fireball. Couple of minutes later, four F-4Ds from Shiraz bombed the port of Al Faw and adjacent depots and magazines with laser-guided bombs, while surrounding Iraqi SAM-sites were hit by F-4Es and F-5Es. The Iraqis, already shattered by the massive destruction of their facilities and heavy losses, claimed one Phantom as shot down by SAMs, but the damaged plane managed to land at Bandar Musharaf.

Further formations of Iranian Phantoms and Tomcats joined the scene, covering the withdrawal of Joshan and the rest of the Task Force 421. Phantoms first hit one Iraqi oil rig, where one SA.321GV Super Frelon helicopter, armed with AM.39 Exocet missile, was parked. The helicopter and the rig got three Maverick hits and were blown to pieces.

At that moment, two groups of Iraqi MiG-23MS interceptors and one of MiG-23BN fighter-bombers appeared on the scene. The following air battle over Mina al Bakr terminal was at least as lethal as the naval clash minutes before: Iranian Phantoms, free of their heavy bomb-loads, turned into MiG-23MSs and shot three of them down, loosing one of their airplanes in the process. The second Iraqi formation of four MiG-23BNs attacked Joshan, but lost two of its members to SA-7 missiles, fired by the crew of the patrol craft. The third MiG was then despatched by AIM-7F-4 Sparrows of Iranian Tomcats. Shortly afterward, the operation Morvarid, a full-fledged success for Iranians, was terminated. In less than 12 hours, they managed to sink up to seven motor-torpedo boats and missile crafts - or almost 80% - of the Iraqi Navy, destroy the oil terminals at Mina al Bakr and Khor-al-Amaya, and block the port of Al Faw. The Iraqis also lost one MiG-21, six MiG-23MS and MiG-23BNs and one Super Frelon. The IRIAF suffered a loss of one F-4E shot down and one damaged.

The operation Morvarid actually marked the end of the first phase in the war between Iraq and Iran in which both sides mounted their - then - most modern equipment in a full-scale fighting. After that the conflict was actually sustained with constrained, episodic action interspersed with bouts of feverish combat. Generally speaking the Iraqi military planers, particularly Saddam Hussein, failed to make a correct assessment of the capabilities of their troops and badly underestimated the enemy. Iraqi armed forces were capable of achieving only limited objectives, such as securing a part of the Shatt al Arab or severing Dezful from the rest of Iran. But as they tried to capture Khoramshahr and Abadan and at the same time attacked Ahwaz and Dezful, they lost valuable time as well as the advantage of the surprise. The first two cities suffered badly, but were actually not crucial if the Iraqi intention was to deprive Iran of precious Khuzistan oil and secure an entrance into the Gulf. However, the failure to capture Dezful and its vital Vahidyeh air base, and thus cut off Iranian supply lines, was in due course to lead to Iraq's expulsion from Khuzistan."

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Book about history of Iranian Air Force and the war with Iraq, by Tom Muffin will be available shortly and we plan to announce the date as soon as possible.