Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Operation Praying Mantis

A preview from my upcoming book in the works, on the anniversarry of OPM

April 18 1988 would turn out to be one of the most disastrous days in the history of the Iranian Navy. On that day an American Naval force composed of 12 warships, led by the USS Coronado LPD-11 approached Bandar Abbas. Battle commenced when Surface Action Group Bravo, composed of the USS Merrill DD-976, USS Lynde McCormick DDG-8, and USS Trenton LPD-14 approached the Sassan Oil Platform. Within 20 minutes of approaching the Sassan Oil Platform Surface Action Group Bravo opened fire on it, silencing the Sassan Oil Platform’s guns and a Marine detachment was send to destroy the Sassan Oil Platform at 9:25 AM, which it did without resistance. However around 12:50 PM, two Iranian F-4 fighter jets made an attack run on Surface Action Group Bravo. Though they were within missile range the pilots reconsidered their attack once they detected that the USS Lynde McCormick had locked it’s fire control radar on the jets. The polits of those jets decided not to take any risks and abandoned their attack. Once Surface Action Group Bravo had destroyed the Sassan Oil Platform it was ordered to destroy the Raksh Oil Platform.

Around the same time Surface Action Group Charlie, composed of the USS Wainwright CG-28, USS Bagley FF-1069, and USS Simpson FFG-56 began their attack on the Sirri Oil Platform. As they made their attack the IS Joshan P-225 made an attack on The USS Wainwright and Iranian PT Craft sortied against American and foreign ships in the Gulf. At 12:15 PM the IS Joshan fires one of it’s Harpoon missiles at the USS Wainwright but misses, despite their brave attack the crew are not used to engaging other fleets in pitched battles. The USS Wainwright and USS Simpson fire their missiles at the IS Joshan disabling it’s main armament before Surface Action Group Charlie sank the IS Joshan with their guns. Determined to avenge the IS Joshan two Iranian F-4’s make an attack on the USS Wainwright which fired at the Iranian jets. One of the Iranian F-4’s was hit on the wing by a SM-2 Missile from the USS Wainwright, and both jets returned to Bandar Abbas, not wanting to continue the action further.

Soon it would be the turn of the Americans to launch air attacks of their own. Around 1:30 PM reports of Iranian PT Craft attacks on the Panamanian Cargo Ship Scan Bay prompt the USS Enterprise CVN-65 to launch an air strike on the Iranian PT Craft in the form of a F-14 and 2 A-6E jet fighters, who begin attacking the Iranian PT Craft around 2:25 PM near Abu Musa.

This only prompted the Iranians to dispatch their Frigates. The first to engage the Americans was the IS Sahand F-74 which made an attack run on the USS Joseph Strauss DDG-16, which along with the USS O’Brien DD-975 and USS Jack Williams FFG-24 comprised Surface Action Group Delta. Bearing down on the USS Joseph Strauss the IS Sahand fired at 2 A-6E jets, and the jets and the USS Joseph Strauss fired back at the IS Sahand, launching 3 Harpoon Missiles and 4 Laser Guided Bombs at the IS Sahand around 3:30 PM. The hits from these bombs and missiles set the IS Sahand ablaze, and by evening the magazine had exploded as a result of the fires and all that the commanding officer of the IS Sahand can do is to maneuver the ship towards shallow water to make it easier for the crew to abandon ship.

Around the same time an AH-1T Helicopter flying reconnaissance from the USS Trenton got mixed up in the crossfire and their helicopter crashes 15 miles southwest of Abu Musa. Despite this the Americans continue to hold control of the conflict. This is lost on the IS Sabalan F-73 left Bandar Abbas around 5:00 PM. Within minutes it is firing it’s harpoon missiles at the A-6E’s it sees, and by 5:15 one of the A-6E fighters drops a bomb down the funnel of the IS Sabalan, causing damage to the engines and soon the IS Sabalan is being towed back to Bandar Abbas.

At the end of April 18, 1988 the American navy had established itself master of the Persian Gulf. That they were facing an Iranian Navy and military that was smaller was no real reason for their victory. Since 1978 the Iranian Military had been severely tested, it’s ranks depleted of it’s best soldiers, and those still serving in Iran’s military tired by the past decade of conflict. The Iranian navy took it the hardest. It was dependent on imports and captured material for new Ships and most weapons, and those Officers and Sailors operating the Ships Iran had did not always have proper training in combat situations. Being used to fighting Iraqi forces who were worse trained, they cracked facing the Americans, and Operation Praying Mantis was to demonstrate this all too well. In many ways Operation Praying Mantis was like Salamis. In both instances Iran lost due to the composition of it’s soldiers, however while at Salamis the flaw was the heterogeneous composition of the Iranian soldiers, the flaw that hit Iran the hardest during Operation Praying Mantis was the overworked and undertrained soldiers who faced the Americans. More would be to come for Iran during the remaining months of khomeini’s rein of terror over Iran.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home