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Nicaraguan Naval Battles

Soviet cogitations: 312
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 10 Jun 2018, 17:55
Nicaragua was the second Central-American nation to join the Soviet sphere of influence after the Sandinista insurrection gained power, ending the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza (later killed in exile).
Since the victory in 1979, Nicaragua gained a local strategically role in the Cold War because the United States feared the small nation could be used by Cuba and Soviet Union as a “bridgehead” to support other communist guerrilla groups in central America. CIA, to topple the revolutionary government actively founded a number of anti-communist insurgent groups: these actions politically backlashed due constant political infighting and military ineptitude on the battlefields. “Contras” guerrilla groups infiltrated the northern and southern border of the country, faced a well-trained former guerrilla-army now military supported by Cuba and Soviet Union.
Murdering of civilians by “Contras” gained a bad international reputation, adding to the black operations by CIA to found the groups, including drug-traffic and weapons deliveries to Iran (a sworn enemy to the United States, the operation revealed in the “Iran-Contras affair”). While the Sandinista government managed to fend-off the Contras, the downfall of Soviet Union was a terrible political blow and eventually the socialist experiment ended with contested political elections, amid suspects of direct intimidations from Contras to resume the conflict.

The Nicaraguan Navy was the smaller and most weak branch of military. While some Eastern Block minor vessels imported, there are only little information about possible clashes with boats or ferries used by “Contras”.
In essence, the naval conflict saw limited importance: a number of losses suffered, especially for the mining of Nicaraguan Harbors by CIA, however such action caused more an international uproar than tactical successes.

It is interesting to note that de jure Nicaragua under Sandinista leadership never proclaimed constitutional reforms with direct references to communism but included some constitutional elements of socialism, but this was because the constant civil war conflict status, retaining them even to these days.

Sources include official ESLN press report and the magnificent work done by (c)Alexander Rosin on the russian blog


On unclear date, Nicaraguan patrol boat GC-301 “Tayacàn” claim to have shot down one Honduras A-37 plane. No actual loss suffered.

8 November 1982
Two patrol boats from Honduras and one from El Salvador briefly engaged with Nicaraguan patrol boats in the Gulf of Fonseca.

19 April 1983
Two Honduran patrol boats engaged two Nicaraguan patrol boats that suffered four sailors wounded in action.

20 July 1983
Two Honduran patrol boats engaged one Nicaraguan patrol boat. Honduran sources define only one patrol boat and imply two Nicaraguan planes engaged. One Honduran sailor wounded in action, when a patrol boat suffered hit from Nicaraguan fire.

23 July 1983
Two Nicaraguan fishing vessels attacked by two Salvadoran patrol boats in the Gulf of Fonseca.

1 September 1983
First naval landing, south of Bluefields, accomplished by Nicaraguan Navy, using one soviet-made Project 1400 Griff-type patrol boat (“Zhuk” class) and fishing boats.

9 September 1983
Honduran patrol boats engaged two Nicaraguan patrol boats but retreated after a skirmish.

10 October 1983
Raid in Corinto
From a CIA “mother-ship” departed Contras commandos on speedboats shelling with rockets 5 oil storage tanks in the port terminal with damages. Fuel ignited caused widespread damages to local civilian area, while losses were avoided due evacuation (3.000 persons evacuated), with only three wounded.

21 October 1983
CIA Speedboats opened fire against the fuel depots at Port Cabeza, without reported damage, and gunned the Panama ship “Anita” which was in port, killing 1 and wounding other 11 (including 3 children).

6 November 1983
Honduran navy shelled and sunk a Nicaraguan fishing vessel, capturing the ship’s crew.

6 January 1984
CIA speedboats launched rockets at Potasi port, no damage reported.

25 January 1984
Two CIA speedboats escorted by an unmarked aircraft fired upon the Nicaraguan fishing boat “Carlos Fonseca” off Puerto Sandino.

24 February 1984
One CIA/Contra “Piranha” speedboat shelled fuel depots at El Bluff on Atlantic Coast but without success: she left four mines before departing. The speedboat also shelled the fishing vessels Aldo Chavarrìa and Pescasa-15, inflicting minor damages. A Nicaraguan patrol boat briefly exchanged fire with her but no damage reported on both sides. Nicaraguan sources states that the mine responsible for losses at 25 February (including the same Pescasa-15) were from this specific small field.

January – March 1984
Mining of Nicaraguan Harbors
CIA, under direct President Reagan order, begun a mining operation of Nicaraguan ports. The whole action saw no action of the Contras, and indeed was an act of undeclared war:
25 February 1984: Nicaraguan fishing boat Pescasa-23 (7 wounded, 2 missing) and Pescasa-15 (2 wounded) sunk at El Buff
1 March 1984: the Dutch dredger Geopontes-IV (2 Nicaraguan wounded) damaged in Corinto
7 March 1984: Panamanian-flagged English cargo North Caribes (4000 GRT) damaged (cargo: medicines, food and industrial supplies, 26 tons lost). 6 WIA.
20 March 1984: Soviet tanker Lugansk damaged in Puerto Sandino (cargo: 13.000 tons of fuel). 5 wounded.
27 March 1984: Liberian-flagged Norwegian merchant Iver Chasar damaged in Corinto (cargo: molasses).
29 March 1984: Nicaraguan fishing boats San Albino and Arcely Pérez sunk at Corinto (no casualties).
30 March 1984: Nicaraguan fishing boat Alma Sultana damaged in Corinto. (4 wounded)
30 March 1984: Japanese merchant Terushio Maru damaged in Corinto (cargo: bicycles, auto spare parts, construction material and cotton).
2 May 1984: Nicaraguan fishing boat Pedro Araus Palacios damaged in Corinto.

Overall, 2 Nicaraguan civilian sailors died and 15 other sailors were wounded (including 4 Soviets from the tanker).
The campaign failed to inflict serious losses to the military capabilities of the Nicaraguan Army against the Contras and caused political and inner repercussion to the CIA and the Reagan administration.

While it is true that at first the Nicaraguan Navy operated only fishing boats as minesweepers (as widespread claimed by western sources), the Soviets quickly provided four Polish-built 361T project minesweepers: n°500, n°502, n°504 and n°506, reinforced by other ships provided by the Cuban Navy: n°501, n°508, n°510 of project1258E. All these ships heavily engaged in minesweeping successfully (likely with directly from Soviet and Cuban advisors).

6 March 1984
For the first time, two Contra “Piranha” speedboats shelled Nicaraguan ground forces in Montélimar.

7 March 1984
Contra “Piranha” speedboats, supported by one unmarked (likely CIA) helicopter, fired at least five rockets at fuel storage facilities in the port of San Juan del Sur.

27 March 1984
Two Contra “Piranha” speedboats attacked the Nicaraguan patrol boat GC-300 (French-built) off Corinto, causing two wounded sailors.

28 March 1984
One Contra “Piranha” speedboat attacked the Panamanian merchant “Homin-7” with machine-guns while she was in the Puerto Sandino harbor (cargo of 9700 tons of sugar)

29 March 1984
Two Contra “Piranha” speedboats believed to attempt landing mines off the Pacific coast, attacked by Nicaraguan patrol boats.
Nicaraguan sources claim one speedboat set-afire and destroyed, additionally they believed the boats operated from a larger CIA mothership off coast. Local Nicaraguan commander at Corinto was Mario Aleman.

March 1984
Nicaraguan Navy made a successful landing and troop-ferrying using a Israeli-made Dabur-class patrol boat (sold to Nicaragua before the Revolution), fishing boats and LVTP-type landing crafts near San Juan de Nicaragua: a southern town temporarily seized by Contras.

Photo of Argentinian Dabur class patrol boat (same generation imported in late '70s). These boats obtained before the Sandinista Revolution apparently proved effective. It is unknown (but likely) if Soviet technicians studied the vessels.

16 May 1984
Action off Lausika
A group of “piranha” speedboats manned by ARDE Contra group detected and destroyed: two speedboats sunk and two speedboats captured, while other two survived units fled. There are scarce details of the operation: but it appears it was a combined-coordinated ambush or intercept due intelligence leakage on enemy side.

End of May 1984
One speedboat manned by Contras hit and sunk by Nicaraguan Air Force. With this, so far the Nicaraguan forces claimed a total of 7 enemy speedboats destroyed.

18 April 1985
Three Honduran airplanes attacked two Nicaraguan patrol boats, sinking GC-231 with casualties.
Soviet cogitations: 312
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 10 Nov 2018, 10:28
* List of losses caused by CIA mines revised, updated and corrected
* Inserted other March/May events, including further skirmishes and ARDE/"Contra" boats losses. Very little information sadly.
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