Iranian Navy defeating the U.S. Navy? A message from 30 years ago

| April 18, 2018 | 61 Comments

U.S. Navy photograph of Iranian frigate, Sahand, burning.

Three years ago, the Iranians demonstrated how they were going to defeat the U.S. Navy. Center to their demonstration was a life-sized mock aircraft carrier. Just sitting there waiting to be punished.

Their media was there, so where high-ranking Iranian politicians, generals, and admirals.

Then, their demonstrations began. One wave of war craft after another conducted “complex” military maneuvers before assaulting the “US aircraft carrier”. They approached and reenacted Rambo on water, showing that carrier “who was boss”.

The Iranians had a message. It went something like this, “Mess with us America and we will send you to the bottom of the Persian Gulf.”

However, they didn’t just have a message for us. They had a message for their rivals in the region. It was something like this, “Don’t mess with our interests and us, we intend to expand and strengthen our influence.” They also had a message for their own people, something like this, “Glory to the revolution, we are here to stay.”

We know; however, that they’re going to pretend all they want. A look at history three decades ago, this day, should remind them of a message that we sent them… If they even bothered learning from their own mistakes.

Our message went something like this, “Mess with us and we will pulverize you, send your ships to the bottom of the Arabian Gulf, sweep them aside, etc, and show you and the Iranian people how terrible your military is.”

It was priceless when U.S. Navy personnel informed the Iranian Navy personnel that the former intended to hammer the later.

This was Operation Praying Mantis, a sea battle between the U.S. Navy and the Iranian Navy that took place 30 years ago today:

From the Navy’s website:

Naval aircraft and the destroyer USS Joseph Strauss (DDG 16) sank the Iranian frigate Sahand (F 74) with harpoon missiles and laser-guided bombs. A laser-guided bomb, dropped from a Navy A-6 Intruder, disabled frigate Sabalan (F 73), and Standard missiles launched from the cruiser USS Wainwright (CG 28) and frigates USS Bagley (FF 1069) and USS Simpson (FFG 56) destroyed the 147-foot missile patrol boat Joshan (P 225). In further combat, A-6s sank one Bodghammer high-speed patrol boats and neutralized four more of the speedboats.

Other branches of the military also participated in this operation. This was part of a larger operation, Operation Earnest Will.

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Category: Navy, War Stories

Comments (61)

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  1. The Other Whitey says:

    One of the most one-sided battles in history, ending with a clear message to the Iranians of “We will be happy to continue fucking you up if you don’t take a hint and go home!”

  2. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    This worries me because I don’t even remember the event.

    • 2/17 Air Cav says:

      I have zero recall on this as well. Worrying is okay. In a few minutes, you’ll forget what it was that was worrying you.

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        Seriously, based on media bias, I’m guessing that because we were the good guys, it didn’t merit much coverage. On the other hand, some 2 1/2 months after this lopsided fight, the USS Vincennes shot down a civilian airliner over Iranian airspace. We were the bad guys so the media feasted on that. And THAT is probably why I remember the one but not the other.

        • thebesig says:

          I remember the media coverage of that. They emphasized the fact that it shot a civilian airliner down. However, they didn’t emphasize the fact that the USS Vincennes was engaged in an exchange of fire against the Iranian military prior to that.

          • IDC SARC says:

            I was on one of the ships(just checking Peckers and occasionally on the flight deck) in that incident. The Iranians pushing into the no fly zone with military and civilian aircraft heightened the tensions to prevent another Stark incident.

            Damned if you don’t damned if you do.

            • thebesig says:

              When we were deployed to the Adriatic, in late 1995, early 1996, unknown aircraft took our warnings seriously. As soon as they heard, “United States Warship,” the aircraft that we were warning turned and beat feet.

              They had to have remembered the USS Vincennes, and other similar events.

              Not even complete with our first warning. Our allies did not always have that luck when they gave their warnings. Many times, the unknown aircraft waited until almost the end of their third warning.

    • thebesig says:

      I remember it being on the news, then debating with my classmates about it the next day. :mrgreen:

  3. AW1Ed says:

    That whole attack on the carrier thing was a farce on many levels. I’ll just leave it at, it’s really easy to win when your opponent doesn’t shoot back.

    • Atkron says:

      We practiced EMCON for a reason. 😉

    • thebesig says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more of a propaganda thing than a serious, “This is what we’ll do.” A lot of bark, but with the knowledge that should crap hit the fan, they’d have no teeth to back that bark.

      • AW1Ed says:

        Of course it was propaganda, and pretty piss-poor at that. They can hit a stationary, undefended target? BFD.

        • thebesig says:

          I read a commentary, from the Middle East, where the writer criticized what he called “TV Victory”. He compared that to what’s required for actual victory.

          It’s like that so called “captured Israeli” tank that Hamas (or similar group) claimed to capture. They surrounded it and celebrated… while not covering the wheels of the truck that was carrying a prop of an Israeli tank.

          The Iranians failed to factor in the fact that a carrier was going to come with a battle group, and enough assets to send those “bad arse” Iranian craft to the bottom of the sea.

    • Atkron says:

      On my last cruise one of our Battle Group (USS Gettysburg) was rammed by an Iranian Gun Boat…but it was 1996 and POTUS42 was a useless bag of used douche juice.

      • thebesig says:

        One of my Haiti deployments was supposed to be a “We mean business” deployment. We had just returned from a deployment that included deployments to Somalia and to the Adriatic. We thought that we were done.

        During our transit to Haiti, POTUS42 and “moved” the “red line”.

  4. Mick says:

    Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 lost an AH-1T Cobra attack helicopter in action on 18 April 1988 during Operation PRAYING MANTIS. Both pilots were killed.

    http://popasmoke.com/kia/incidents.php?incident_id=313&conflict_id=37

    ‘880418 HML(A)-167 Operation PRAYING MANTIS – IRAN

    Incident Date 880418 HML(A)-167 AH-1T – BuNo unknown – Lost during combat patrol off the USS TRENTON

    [CREW]

    Hill, Kenneth W. Capt Pilot HML(A)-167 ACE, MAGTF 2-88 880418

    Leslie, Stephen C. Capt Pilot HML(A)-167 ACE, MAGTF 2-88 880418

    […]

    The U.S. side took only two casualties: the aircrew of a Marine Corps AH-IT Sea Cobra gunship. The Cobra was flying reconnaissance from the Wainwright and crashed sometime after dark about 15 miles southwest of Abu Musa island. The bodies of Capt. Stephen C. Leslie, 30, of New Bern, N.C., and Capt. Kenneth W. Hill, 33, of Thomasville, N.C., were recovered by Navy divers in May, and the wreckage of the helicopter was raised later that month. Navy officials said it showed no sign of battle damage, though the aircraft could have crashed while trying to evade Iranian fire.

    […].’

    • OSC(SW) Retired says:

      Loved those AH-1T (ahits) detachments. The ones on USS CURTS captured the Iraqi garrison on Qaruh island and then helped take Bubiyan. Our little NArmy unit started the dominoes falling in that little war!

      • Mick says:

        Sorry, Chief, but the AH-1T Cobras that were employed in Operations EARNEST WILL and PRAYING MANTIS were Marine Corps aircraft.

        I believe that you may be thinking of the Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s MH-6/AH-6 helicopters that were deployed aboard U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf during Operation EARNEST WILL, as well as during other operations in the area over the following years. They did indeed do a lot of good work out there.

  5. Ex-PH2 says:

    Wasn’t that “attack” thingy three years ago on a video that showed them hitting their own little runabouts and shooting some 4th of July rockets at the mockup carrier?

    I do recall that. I think the video was posted on TAH. I vaguely recall some howling from one of the Iranian slow attack craft when people got hit with their own barrage.

    Something like that, anyway.

    So are they doing that again? Just askin’. I need a good laugh.

    • thebesig says:

      Yes, it was also posted here on This Aint Hell. I went back to that article, and was going to link to it, but it appeared that the video led to a dead end.

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        That’s too bad. I guess Iran didn’t like being embarrassed by its mistakes.

        • thebesig says:

          They’re too busy thinking of them as “successes” to see them as mistakes.

          It’s like them bragging, in the past year or two, about “forcing” us to stay out of Iranian air space when in fact our elements intended to stay out of their air space. Our side would’ve stayed out with or without their “warnings”.

  6. CPT11A says:

    When the US military fights, it doesn’t lose.

    US politicians are a different story.

  7. RCAF-CHAIRBORNE says:

    Operation Ernest P Worrell?

    • Mick says:

      Operation EARNEST WILL.

      • RCAF-CHAIRBORNE says:

        Meh….Close enough

        We have plenty of retarded sounding Ex and Op names too.
        I.e. Our laughably titled anti-sex harassment Op Honour ( which sounds like Hop on ‘er when pronounced by Francos) which

        • Mick says:

          “Meh….Close enough”

          Sorry, but no.

          In addition to the two Marine Aviators who were killed during Operation PRAYING MANTIS, there was also a Marine Aviator killed during Operation EARNEST WILL in 1987.

          So you’ll have to forgive me for not finding any humor in ‘yukkin’ it up’ and playing word games with the name of the military operation in which he lost his life.

          • RCAF-CHAIRBORNE says:

            Of course ALL service related loss of life is tragic. No matter the cause.
            We have lost more troops in a single day; driving to work, during a snow fall.( sure you have too)
            Lighten Up dude

  8. Mick says:

    Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 lost an AH-1T Cobra attack helicopter in action on 18 April 1988 during Operation PRAYING MANTIS. Both pilots were killed.

    http://popasmoke.com/kia/incidents.php?incident_id=313&conflict_id=37

    ‘880418 HML(A)-167 Operation PRAYING MANTIS – IRAN

    Incident Date 880418 HML(A)-167 AH-1T – BuNo unknown – Lost during combat patrol off the USS TRENTON

    [CREW]
    Hill, Kenneth W. Capt Pilot HML(A)-167 ACE, MAGTF 2-88 880418
    Leslie, Stephen C. Capt Pilot HML(A)-167 ACE, MAGTF 2-88 880418

    “The U.S. side took only two casualties: the aircrew of a Marine Corps AH-IT Sea Cobra gunship. The Cobra was flying reconnaissance from the Wainwright and crashed sometime after dark about 15 miles southwest of Abu Musa island. The bodies of Capt. Stephen C. Leslie, 30, of New Bern, N.C., and Capt. Kenneth W. Hill, 33, of Thomasville, N.C., were recovered by Navy divers in May, and the wreckage of the helicopter was raised later that month. Navy officials said it showed no sign of battle damage, though the aircraft could have crashed while trying to evade Iranian fire.”‘

  9. Mick says:

    The U.S. also struck the Iranians at sea on 21/22 September 1987 in a little-known engagement during Operation PRIME CHANCE/Operation EARNEST WILL that ultimately led to Operation PRAYING MANTIS in April 1988.

    ‘Capturing the Iran Ajr’

    http://www.navybook.com/no-higher-honor/timeline/capturing-the-iran-ajr/

    ‘The Iran Ajr, formerly known as the Arya Rakhsh, was a Japanese-built amphibious landing ship used by Iran to lay naval mines during the Iran-Iraq War. The 614-ton, 54-meter ship was the focus of one of the most dramatic moments of Operation Prime Chance, which was the secret portion of Operation Earnest Will, which was the mission to protect U.S.-flagged petroleum-carrying ships in the Persian Gulf.

    On 21 September 1987, U.S. forces tracked the ship as it left Iranian waters. Army helicopters were dispatched from their secret perch aboard the Navy guided missile frigate Jarrett (FFG 33) to shadow it. When the aviators reported that people aboard the Iran Ajr were laying mines, the U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf ordered the Army pilots to “stop the mining.” The helicopters fired on the ship, killing some of the mariners and chasing others into the water. Navy SEAL commandos later boarded the ship, confirmed the presence of mines, and detained the surviving Iranians.

    On 26 September, the SEALs scuttled the ship in international waters. The detainees were later transferred “in the dead of night” to an Iranian C-130 airlifter at an Omani airfield, according to a 22 July 1992 article in Newsweek.

    When the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) struck a mine the following April, Navy explosive ordnance specialists matched the serial numbers of nearby unexploded mines to the ones aboard the Iran Ajr. This evidence of Iranian involvement in the Roberts mining led to the biggest surface-warfare battle since World War II, the retribution campaign of 18 April 1988 called Operation Praying Mantis.’

    (Photos from the operation to capture the Iran Ajr can be found at the link that I provided at the top of this post.)

    • AW1Ed says:

      The crew of Roberts did a hell of a job keeping their ship afloat. Good read- “No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf”

      • NEC338x says:

        The DC was textbook and then some! USNA Museum has a Youtube of a panel with CAPT Paul Rinn called Fight The Ship. The audio is terrible but the subject matter is great for snipe geeks. As I recall the frigate Sabalan was poking her nose around the Sammy B as well.

  10. Atkron says:

    Did any of the ships in the direct fight earn CARs?

    Probably ‘just’ the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

  11. 26Limabeans says:

    Has a poser from this action shown up yet?

    • thebesig says:

      Wait for a blockbuster movie on this to come out. Depending on how well such a movie turns out, and which characters are emphasized, we can see some turnout of people claiming to have been involved in this operation.

  12. thebesig says:

    Here’s the video of that mock attack:

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