Excerpt from book by
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
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."
Many thanks to Tom Muffin for all his support to IINavy Site.
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
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.