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Iraqi Naval Battles (updated 2020)

Soviet cogitations: 317
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 06 Oct 2018, 23:53
Once gained independence from the British Empire, Iraq moved alongside other Arab nations to a path of secularism and general alignment with the Soviet Union in opposition with Israel. The rise to power of Saddam Hussein was a key factor of the history of the country, leading to a number of geopolitical consequences. Politically, while both Iraq and Syria followed the same “Baathist” ideology (secularism mixed with socialism and local nationalism), soon it created a rift with Syria more closely aligned to Soviet Union and Iraq following a pragmatist neutralist path. This ambiguity, the suppression of the local left (with the repression of the Iraqi Communist Party) and disastrous strategically choices by its leadership provoked the eventual downfall of the Baathist rule in 2003 with the American Invasion.

NOTE: details of exact identity, names and precise fate of each boat operated Iraqi Navy is incomplete. Luckily new information could came out from future local books.

Sources include the magnificent work done by (c)Alexander Rosin on the russian blog

Iran – Iraq War
The Iran-Iraq war was the peak of activity for the small Iraq Navy: despite possessing only a small connection to sea, the nation was dependant of sea commerce and the Iraqi Navy built predominately by Soviet influence. During the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet-made ship (with crew trained by Soviet advisors) could score only modest successes while suffering losses due the predominance of the Iranian Navy. Iraq skilfully used the Air Force in an effective “Air-to-Ship” warfare: at first using the robust and effective SA-321GV “Super Frelon” (the most effective asset, often obscured by airplanes) and later by Mirage F1E-Q5. During this warfare, the primary objective were tankers used to export Iranian oil.
In the last years of war, the Iraqi Navy ordered a whole small fleet by Italian shipyards (including frigates and corvettes!) but none delivered due international embargo.

21 September 1980
An Iraqi missile boat project 205 missile boat claimed as sunk by an Iranian helicopter AB.212ASW with AS.12 missile. So far, this loss is unconfirmed but likely: the Iraqi Navy officially admitted five project205 missile boats lost during the conflict and while four are fully known, this earlier loss could be the fifth missing loss. It is known that of the five units lost during the whole conflict, three were actually the updated project205U.

23 September 1980
Iranian missile boats of Kaman class reportedly shelled with 75mm and damaged both Panama’s tanker Oriental Star and Singapore’s tanker Lucille

24 September 1980
Iranian corvette IRIS Naghdi and minesweeper IRIS Shahrokh damaged with 250kg bombs dropped by Iraqi MiG-23BN planes.

18 October 1980
A group of Iranian missile boats Kaman class destroyed with 75mm fire the Iraqi tankers Murlindhar, Safina Al-Umar, Al-Phirosh, Al-Hafifa, Safina Al-Nasari, and the Indian tanker Gelaninipirpasa but the reaction of the land-site of HY-2 anti-ships missiles reportedly sunk the Iranian patrol ship Tiran with two hits.
It now appears likely that both the Iranian patrol ships IRIS Mehran and IRIS Tiran sunk. There is high disagreement because many sources report the loss of the Mehran alone on later date (11 September 1982) due Iraqi missile from a Super Frelon helicopter: this loss denied by some sources, stating rather that sister-ship Mahan was lost on 1981 or 1982. Iranian sources actually report both ship as lost in the 1980 incident, due a friendly fire attack from F-4E Phantom fighters. Further report of Tiran being damaged (by Super Frelon missile) on 22 November 1982 are likely false.
Details of the Iraqi tanker losses are unknown as for a possible participation of the Iraqi Navy.

Photo of Mahan, sister-ship of two other lost. While reported herself as lost in action, according Iranians was as stricken in 2004. US-built vessels.

5 November 1980
The Iranian Kaman class missile boat IRIS Paykan reportedly missed with a Harpoon missile an Iraqi project 205 missile boat

29 November 1980
Operation Morvarid
The most famous naval engagement between Iran and Iraq during the war begun with a heavy Iranian offensive on Iraqi oil terminal and naval shelling from Iranian missile boats IRIS Paykan and IRIS Joshan at Iraqi ports. The Iraqi Navy reacted dispatching four project 205 missile boats: in the subsequent fight, the missile boat IRIS Paykan hit by missile fired from the Iraqi ships and sunk.
Most of western media report the Iranian propaganda describing a heroic last-stand (with Paykan reportedly being alone, surrounded by overwhelming forces, sinking one missile boat, shooting down two MiG-23 and one Super Frelon helicopter before sinking). Actually, no Iraqi plane directly operated in coordination with the ships, and no Iraqi ship was lost in this phase.
Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters counter-attacked and sunk two missile boats (confirmed by Iraq). The loss of a third additional missile boat is wrong, like the Iranian claim of sinking 4 project 183 motor torpedo boats (no m.t.b. was dispatched by Iraqis! Moreover some Western source wrongly propose project183R missile boats sunk!) as well as the claimed sinking of other ships (a project254 minesweeper, two project201 submarine chasers, one project770 landing ship). Overall, while most of western sources just back the Iranian claim, the Operation Morvarid (including commando attacks on the oil platforms on 28 November) was far from an Overwhelming Iranian success and the result was more like a draw.
Significantly, the Iraqi Navy scored its first (and so far only) fully confirmed naval victory with the sinking of Paykan. It was also one of the victories scored by Soviet-made missile boats during a Cold War conflict.

While no Iraqi other Iraqi loss can be related to the actual naval fight, Soviet sources reports the Iraqi lost other units on separate bombing on harbour. The landing ship Janad project 773K and up to six motor torpedo boats of project 183 (other Russian sources only list in detail four losses: Al Bahi, Al Shaab, Lamaki and Tareq Ibn Zaid). However, these are losses occurred during the whole conflict! Still it is possible the loss of the landing ship and some of the project183 boats registered by Iraqi as unrelated to the actual naval battle yet occurred the same day due air attack on harbor. Soviet and Iraqi sources stress that during the whole conflict the Iraqi Navy lost no minesweeper nor submarine chasers.

? 1981
On unclear dates, Iranian minesweepers IRIS Simorgh and IRIS Harishi sunk in action

Photo of IRIS Simorgh of American Adjutant class, her loss as well as the ones of other 2 minesweepers is poorly described.

? 1982 or 1983
On unclear dates, Iranian minesweeper IRIS Karkas sunk in action

31 March 1982
Iraqi SA-321GV Super Frelon helicopter destroyed with AM.39 the Iranian tug Setareh (167tons). Ship reported as a military-operated tug.

9 August 1982
There is great confusion in sources about the losses of Greek tanker Litison Pride and South Korean tanker Sanbow Banner, both hit and declared total losses.
So far, the most reasonable explain is the loss by Iraqi AM.39 missiles launched by Super Frelon helicopter.
Other sources reports the Korean vessel hit by Iraqi “artillery”. Others even state both ships were attacked by Iranian warships (sinking them with missiles and gunfire), but this is clearly wrong, on Sanbow Banner died 20 men including 6 Iranian Navy’s personnel.

2-3 September 1982
Iraqi Navy dispatched two project 205 missile boats to attack a large convoy composed by 25 ships (mostly foreign) under heavy Iranian escort (two frigates and two corvettes).
Iranian escort ship launched illuminating flares and made manoeuvres to attract the missile boat attention, this proved successfully because both Iraqi missile boats launched all their missiles at excessive distance scoring no hit. Iranian frigate IRIS Alvand reported 2 missiles missing her.

5 September 1982
Iraqi ground batteries launched 8 HY-2 missiles against unspecified targets but no hit reported.

9 – 10 September 1982
Iraqi Navy dispatched two project 205 missile boats to act as baits for Iranian frigates or corvettes: Iraqi SA-321GV Super Frelon helicopters fired their AM.39 missiles, claiming the sinking of one corvette. This claim indeed match the loss of the Iranian corvette IRIS Milanian: many western sources report no specific date for this corvette loss (usually reported in 1980 and sometimes in 1982).

Photo of sister-ship Bayandor. Iran lost 2 vessels of the 4-units class during the war, built in USA on unique Italian-inspired design for the Persian Navy.

21 November 1982
The loss of the large Iranian luxury cruise-ship Raffaello (45933 GRT) is another mysterious event. The ship (no longer used for her intended role and previously used by the Persian Navy as barrack ship), is often described as destroyed by two Iraqi AM.39 missiles launched from Super Frelon helicopter.
Soviet sources believed she hit by Iraqi Tu-16 bomber with KSR-2 missile, but this appear to be wrong due lack of such anti-ship capabilities (until delivery of Chinese H-6D bombers in 1986).
Iranian sources on their hand believe she was stuck by “aerial bombs” from unspecified Iraqi planes. Other neutral sources are clearly mistaken in describing a “torpedo” attack.
Iraqi sources make a more detailed and likely accurate account: it was an attack by three project 205 missile boats. They fired six missiles and made the overclaim of five enemy targets hit, but among them a large “Iranian yacht” that was very likely the cruise ship Raffaello. While not fully confirmed by enemy side (that likely did not observed the ships), it is so far the second victory scored by a Iraqi Navy vessel. Interestingly, due the large size (45933 GRT) it was the largest and heaviest naval target ever destroyed by a communist or socialist Navy nation and also the largest and heaviest naval enemy target hit by a Soviet-made warship.
One of the three project 205 missile boats did not attacked because experienced technical issues at the engine: it was fixed but the ship sailed home without attacking.

In 1983
The Iraqi Navy received in 1983 nine patrol ships of RV-90 class from Yugoslavia (90tons, armed with 40mm and 22mm).
They operated actively in the northern part of the Persian Gulf, five patrol boats of this class lost during the whole conflict during unspecified incidents and clashes (likely most targeted by air attacks or ground artillery).

12 April 1983
Six Iraqi missile boats attacked the Iranian oil-platform of Ardeshir and Cyrus: they launched 8 missiles, scoring respectively 2 and 3 hits on the platform.
While successful, in term of heavy damages to both the platform, one project205 missile boat lost, apparently sunk by Harpoon missile fired from Iranian warship.
This loss, not reported by western sources, it is the third official loss of an Iraqi project205 unit.

2 May 1983
Two Iraqi missile boats attacked the Iranian oil-platform of Nowrouz. One project 205 missile boat fired 3 missiles (unclear if hit the platform), and was targeted by Harpoon missile fired from Iranian warship. The second missile boat retreated alongside a couple of Super Frelon helicopters. 12 Iraqi sailors were recovered by an Iranian SH-3 Sea King helicopter and turned POW.
This loss, not reported by western sources, it is the fourth and last official loss of an Iraqi project205 unit.

3 October 1983
Iraqi SA-321GV Super Frelon helicopter sunk with AM.39 the Iranian corvette IRIS Kahnamuie (19 KIA).
Western sources report a similar attack resulting in just damage for the ship on 23 September 1982, while many source report she was lost around 11 September 1982.
Iranian sources confirm her loss for 1983.

12 July 1986
Iranian fleet and commandos attacked the Iraqi Al-Amiya oil platform.
Iraqi Navy was involved and repulsed the attack. No Iranian navy losses known. Iran claimed to have sunk one project 205 missile boat and damaged a second one but this is denied.
Interestingly, an F-14A Tomcat fighter, coordinated and helped by F-4E Phantom, shot-down one of two attacking MiG-23 fighters while the Phantom destroyed a landed Iraqi helicopter on the platform (Iran claims it was a Super Frelon but this is denied, and it was likely a Mi-8, Puma or Aluette).

4 September 1986
Once again, Iranians attacked the Iraqi Al-Amiya oil platform.
Western sources reports how a group of IRGC assaults boats was targeted by Iraqi Mirage F.1EQ and Sukhoy-22 bombers: 8 assaults boats sunk.
Iranians still reportedly managed to damage the platform, scoring a missile hit from a SA.321H helicopter.
A IRGC assault boat claim to have sunk a project205 missile boat with 57mm but this is denied.

17 October 1986
Iranian frigate IRIS Sabalan damaged with a Sea Killer missile the Panamas tanker Five Brooks (12804 GRT). 5 sailors killed and 13 missing.

November 1986
Iranian frigates damaged with Sea Killer missiles the vessel Ogest Star and the cement-ship Shaam.

6 May 1987
Iranian IRGC assaults boats attacked the Soviet merchant ship Ivan Koroteyev (6641 GRT). Interestingly, the IRGC assault boats were armed with recoilless guns, RPG-7 grenade launchers, but also (to provide some air-cover) American-made missiles “Stingers” gifted from the USA to the Afghan terrorists and quickly sold and acquired by Iran.

15 December 1987
Iranian IRGC assaults attacked the Greek super-tanker Ariadne (102088 GRT), at first causing light damages with gunfire and grenades and forcing crew to abandon ship. An Iranian Navy frigate later hit the vessel with a Sea Killer missile, causing heavy damages.
Soviet cogitations: 317
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 07 Oct 2018, 00:03
Invasion of Kuwait
While details of the Iraqi Navy during the Iran-Iraq war are obscure (at best), even less is known about the operations during the Kuwait war and the occupation of the small country.
Kuwait possessed a small but quite strong navy, technically (by sheer numbers) even superior to the Iraqi Navy however it appears that no direct clash occurred.

During the invasion, the following ships captured by Iraq:
Missile boat of Lurrsen Type 57: KNS Sabhan
Missile boats of Lurrsen Type 45: KNS Al Boom, KNS Al Bettel, KNS Al Saadi, KNS Al Ahmadi, KNS Al Abdali.
Patrol boats (Thornycraft 78ft): KNS Al Salemi, KNS Al Shurti, KNS Aman, KNS Maymoon, KNS Marzook, KNS Mashoor, KNS Murshed, KNS Wathah, KNS Al Shurti,KNS Intisar
Patrol boats (Vosper 56ft): KNS Dastoor, KNS Kasar, KNS Qahir, KNS Sagar, KNS Salam
Patrol boat KNS Mahroos, KNS Dhaheer, KNS Bekah, ten crafts “Seagull” type,
Landing ships (Loadmaster Mk-II): KNS Al Saffar, KNS Al Seef, KNS Al Baldani, KNS Jalbout
Landing crafts (Vosper type): KNS Hadiya, KNS Ceriff, KNS Al Jahra
Landing crafts (Vosper type): KNS Waheed, KNS Fareed, KNS Regga
Six Hovercrafts of British type SR.N6 Mk 9

Currently it is unclear how these vessels were seized (and the list is possible incomplete), however Soviet sources reported that at least some of them directly surrendered to a single missile boat project205 or project205U: this multiple seizures would make this vessel the most successful boat of the Iraqi Navy history

27 December 1990
Iraqi training-ship Ibn Khaldoum boarded in the Arabian Sea by American helicopters. She was carrying 250 international civilian volunteers off the Arab Women’s Union and carrying a cargo of food (rice, milk, sugar, cooking oil and medicine supplies). Cargo was still defined “forbidden” by embargo rules and unloaded in Oman. The Yugoslavian-ship originally designed as frigate but had no real combat capabilities.

Gulf War
The annexing of Kuwait received a globally negative response and the USA build up a coalition of nations to attack Iraq. Soviet Union made no political move to back Iraq, considering how the Baathist nation moved more and more in late ‘80s to neutral and western-friendly association, massacring the Kurds population and repressing the local left groups. While not taking action, officially the Soviet Union (and China) placed a weapons embargo on Iraq. During the Gulf War, the Coalition air superiority destroyed the Iraqi Navy (including the original Iraqi Navy ships and most of the newly acquired ex-Kuwaiti ships).

The only modest success of the Iraqi Navy during the war was deploying a number of defensive mine fields.
It is unclear which units laid the fields, but possibly the operation was carried also by the large project254 minesweepers that could act as minelayers.
It is known that two Coalition vessels hit Iraqi mines: the American nuclear-powered cruiser USS Princeton suffered heavy damages (3 WIA) and was out of the conflict because of this, while the American large amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (Iwo Jima class) was less serious even if could not operate her helicopters MH-53E due leak of fuel from the tanks.

18 January 1991
American A-6E Intruder bombers made a mission against the Iraqi naval base of Umm Qasr.
Heavy anti-aircraft fire, including ground 23 mm flak fire and anti-aircraft fire coming from unidentified ships, shot down one A-6E Intruder (serial n°152928, VA-155 from USS Ranger)(crew William T.Costen and Charlie Turner KIA). It is unclear the identity of Iraqi ships that opened defensive-fire and if the Iraqi recognized it as a shared victory with flak. American Naval Intelligence admitted of no evidence of destroyed Iraqi ships due mining, nor impairing of the earlier Iraqi Navy activities.

23 January 1991
Iraqi tanker Amuriyah sunk by A-6 bombers from the American carrier USS Midway, alongside a British-made Mk6 hovercraft.

24 January 1991
Battle of Qurah
Coalition forces operations to retake the Kuwaiti Island.
The Coalition air-superiority made the fight a one-sided operation: two A-6 American bombers claimed the sinking of one minelayer (likely a large project254 minesweeper with mine laying capabilities), a minesweeper (project 1258 ? ) and a patrol boat (1400E ?). According coalition sources a “minesweeper” (another project 1258? ) on Iraqi own minefield while evading A-6: given that Coalition helicopters from American destroyer USS Curts saved 22 sailors as POW. During the proper landing on the island, the Iraqi garrison lost 3 KIA and 51 POW. There were no coalition losses.

On the same day
Saudi Arabia missile boat HMS Faisal launched an Harpoon missile against unidentified Iraqi target but without hit, apparently a Yugoslavian-built Spasilac class salvage ship.

25 January 1991
Saudi Arabia missile boat HMS Abu Obaidah suffered damage for unclear reason with 4 crewmembers wounded (one later died for wounds). Apparently she was accidentally hit by an American F-4G fighter that jettisoned an anti-radiation missile that previously failed to launch

Sister-ship Oqbah

29 January 1991
Battle of Umm al Maradim
During the operations by Coalition forces, the Kuwaiti island was retook with no losses.
Apparently there were further actions against Iraqi vessels attempting to interfere, there is a video evidence of a project1258 minesweeper strafed and sunk (claimed by naval gunfire, but it is unclear from video).

Photage of the minesweeper hit.

Operations between 29 January and 4 February 1991 are known in the west as “Battle of Bubiyan
The Iraqi Navy soon received the orders from Saddam Hussein (like the Air Force) to flee the country and escape to Iran. How Saddam Hussain planned to retrieve airplanes and ships from his staunch enemy remains a mystery.
The action was actually a series of multiple air-attack on individual ships attempting to flee to Iran with little to no coordination.
The incomplete list of possible ships lost by air-attack (performed by US and UK planes and helicopters) include:
Sumbarine chasers of project201M class: n°301, n°311, n°312 (exactly it is unclear where and when they sunk)
Patrol boats of project368: n°223, n°224
Patrol boats of project376 (originally designed as small minesweepers by soviets): n°225, n°226 and n°227
Landing ships of project 773K: Attica and Nouh (a third vessel, Gund managed to escape to Iran even if apparently damaged) (these landing ships losses are confirmed).
Coalition details how in total 21 claimed sinking occurred: one by Canadian F-18 fighter, 14 by British Lynx helicopter, and the rest (6) by Americans.
British sources claim:
3 minesweepers (possibly 1258 or the three project376 officially classified as patrol boats and misidentified as minesweepers), 3 ex-Kuwaiti Lurrsen Type 45 missile boats, two 1400E patrol boats, two “salvage vessel” (possibly the project 368?), both the project773K landing ships Attica and Nouh, one project254 “minelayer” (technically a large minesweeper with mine laying capability) and another unidentified vessel. It is likely that the landing ship Gund suffered damage by British Lynx aircraft and was the survived vessel (Coalition claim only one vessel escaped)
Coalition air forces suffered one loss on 2 February: the A-6E Intruder (serial n°155632, VA-36 from USS Roosvelt)(crew Barry Cooke and Pat Conner KIA). The bomber was on a solitary mission attacking Iraqi vessels off Faylaka Island and American sources indicate it was shot down either by anti-aircraft fire or with a portable Igla MANPAD missile. Iraqi details over a possible specific claim by individual ship currently unknown.

February 1991
Iraqi training-ship/frigate Ibn Khaldoum heavily damaged in Basra by Allied aircraft. While renamed “Ibn Maghid” after the Gulf War, and claimed to have been never repaired, she was actually in service post-war for her standard training duties.

16 February 1991
An US helicopter SH-60B detected an Iraqi patrol boat in company of a small merchant. The helicopter directed the Kuwait missile boat KNS Istiqlal that opened fire with 76mm and Exocet missiles, claiming the sinking of the target.

The Kuwaiti missile boat escaped capture earlier and took refuge in Bahrein.

20 February 1991
An US S-3 bomber attacked and claimed an Iraqi boat sunk with three bomb hits.

Iraq Invasion
While surviving from US-imposed sanctions, unrest from the Iranian-backed Shia population in the south and ongoing hostilities with the multiple rebel Kurds in the North, Saddam Hussain’s leadership lacked to rebuild a Navy and little was left when the USA invaded the country in 2003 to claim the natural oil reserves. As excuse for the invasion the USA begun a media campaign claiming Iraq possessed mass destruction weapons: the claim later proved to be a deliberate fabrication.

19 May 2003
American patrol boats USS Firebolt, USS Chinook (both Cyclone class) and two guard coast patrol boats USGC Aquidneck and USCG Adak, seized two tugs used as minelayers: Al Raya and Jumariya (the latter towing a minelaying barge). It is unclear of these ships previously laid some mines, but no losses or damages on American and allied vessels occurred.

Unclear date
Iraqi training-ship/frigate Ibn Khaldoum sunk by American aircrafts alongside the last surviving project205 missile boat of the Iraqi navy, the Hazirani. Despite damages during the war, the frigate was operative as training ship by 2002 according Iraqi sources, even if there were issues with the engine for lack of spare parts, she reportedly changed name as “Ibn Maghid” but often referred with the old one.

Apart the never fulfilled dream of enlarging the Fleet with the Italian vessels built and blocked by embargo, this peculiar Yugoslavian-built training frigate and de-facto flag-ship was the largest naval asset of the Iraqi Fleet. A unique product in terms of size by the Yugoslavian shipyard (alongside the Kotor-class that was however based upon Soviet design): she was one of two-class ships alongside a slightly different vessel delivered to Indonesia (a third planned for the Yugoslavian Navy was never built). Despite capabilities to carry anti-ship missiles, she was never modified for offensive combat and her demise mark the end of Saddam’s Navy.
Soviet cogitations: 317
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 07 Jul 2020, 16:03
1) Added loss of 2 Iranian minsweepers in 1981 (Simorgh and Harishi) no exact info about date or cause
2) Added loss of a third Iranian minesweeper (Karkas) for this case there are even conflicting year reported (either 1982 or 1983)
3) Removed two unimportant lines for the loss of "Raffaello"
4) Inserted the main events on the interesting Iraqi training-ship/frigate Ibn Khaldoum before, during and after the Gulf War.
5) Inserted loss of a A-6E intruder bomber on 18/Jan/91 either by naval AA fire or Flak batteries on shore protecting the harbor, during a minelaying
6) Inserted loss of a A-6E intruder bomber on 2/Feb/91. For some reasons many western sources mention no aircraft losses during the hunt for Iraqi ships between 29 January and 4 February, but the loss of this bomber is neither extremely mysterious nor a secret.
7) Added loss of an Iraqi hovercraft alongside tanker "Amuriyah"
8 ) Added activities of Saudi Arabia Navy: a likely failed Harpoon attack on 24/Jan by missile boat "Faisal", friendly fire attack on "Abu Obaidah"
9) Added claim of a Kuwaiti missile boat on 16/Feb/91
10) Added last Coalition claim on 20/Feb/91
11) Inserted main Iraqi losses in 2003 with a description of the interesting light frigate "Ibn Khaldoum"
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