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Iran Ajr Class Landing Ship

In 1978 Iran purchased 4 commercial landing craft from Japan. The origin of these are commercial, armed by Iranians. These Japanese-built landing ships were sometimes used as minelayers. One sister was captured and sunk by USN while laying mines.

The blunt bowed craft with a forward loading ramp are descendants of the first landing ships that appeared in the twentieth century were focused on disembarking personnel and equipment on an unequipped coast with the help of similar ones, and then from the opening ramps with a direct approach of the ship to the coastline. The serious lack of such a method of landing has been and remains the limitations of the coastal areas available for this, not exceeding for the coastline of the seas of the entire World Ocean 4 5%, as well as weather restrictions. Another problem is the buildup of dimensions of traditional amphibious ships, which, on the one hand, is necessary to increase their cruising range, seaworthiness and amphibious assault, and on the other hand, it limits the capabilities of ships even closer to the shore. In view of this, during the Second World War, when the United States was faced with the task of conducting large amphibious operations in the Pacific Ocean with considerable distances to the landing areas, along with traditional amphibious ships (LSM and LST types), Americans designed (based on the British project) special large ships.

These craft had a unloaded displacement of 614 tons and a displacement of 2,274 tons when fully loaded. 2 Diesel engines driving 2 screws gave the ships a maximum speed of 11 knots. The four ships were originally named Arya Rakhsh, Arya Sahand, Arya Akian, and Arya Dokht, before being renamed after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. They became the Iran Ajr, Iran Bahr, Iran Asr, and Iran Ghadr respectively. These ships were delivered unarmed, but were fitted with two 12.7mm machine guns for self defense, and carried a number of mines stowed on the deck. Mines were launched over the side of the vessel.

Originally intended to be used as freighters, they were put into action at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war as covert minelayers. The Iran Bahr was lost in 1980, and the Iran Ajr was scuttled by its crew after being boarded and captured by US special operations forces during the Tanker War. The capture of the Iran Ajr in 1987, which Iranian authorities had contended was not involved in any military operations was a major event, and a major prize for Western powers.

The 2 remaining ships of the class were still in use as landing ships and mine layers through 1995, but were noted as out of active service, replaced by the Hejaz class LSTs by 2000.

Throughout the summer of 1987, tensions continued to increase between the United States and Iran as Iran laid more minefields in various locations in the Arabian Gulf, which of course the Iranians denied doing. On 10 August, the tanker Texaco Caribbean, under U.S. charter by a U.S. firm, struck a mine off Fujairah (along with a couple other ships, at least one of which sank). This was the first time Iranian mines had been laid outside the Strait of Hormuz. Also that same day, a U.S. F-14 from USS Constellation (CV-64) fired two Sparrow air-to-air missiles at a radar blip that had been assessed as showing hostile intent toward a U.S. P-3, although nothing was hit.

There was also a secret (at the time) adjunct to Operation Ernest Will, called Operation Prime Chance. As part of the operation, U.S. Army special operations attack helicopters were embarked on U.S. Navy frigates. In addition, two barges were acquired, Hercules and later Wimbrown 7, which were used as mobile sea bases, each with a SEAL platoon, two Mark III fast patrol boats, U.S. Army MH-6 and AH-6 Little Bird/Sea Bat helicopters, an explosive ordnance disposal detachment, and a U.S. Marine Corps security detachment.

The planning for the barges was somewhat controversial, due to perceived vulnerability to attack. Admiral Lee Bagget, commander in chief, Atlantic Fleet, called it a floating Beirut Barracks, a reference to the terrorist attack in 1983 that killed over 241 U.S. service members, mostly Marines and 18 U.S. Navy Sailors.

Despite the risk, Operation Prime Chance achieved a stunning success on 21 September 1987. An IRGCN detachment had essentially commandeered an IRIN LST, Iran Ajr. The ship had mixed IRIN and IRGCN crew, who did not like each other. Iran Ajr loaded 18 Sadaf 02 moored contact mines with the intent to mine the main channel leading to Bahrain. Iran Ajrs unusual communications profile, and stop at the Iranian Rostam oil platform (used by the IRGC for intelligence collection) alerted U.S. naval intelligence in Bahrain.

The frigate USS Jarret (FFG-33) was ordered to investigate the suspicious activity, and two U.S. Army attack helos from Jarret caught Itan Ajr in the act of laying mines. Cleared to engage, the Army helos fired rockets and numerous machine gun rounds into the LST, seriously damaging the ship, killing several crew members and causing others to jump over the side. When the helos returned 15 minutes later after re-arming, they were astonished to see Iran Ajr still intent on accomplishing her mission. The LST, with her remaining crew, had resumed minelaying, so the helos conducted a second attack. A SEAL team subsequently boarded and took control of the ship, including the ten mines still on board. Three Iranians were killed outright and two others were lost after going over the side. The United states rescued and captured 26 other Iranians (who were returned to Iranian authorities via the UAE, complete with U.S. Navy T-shirts and ball caps).

The Iranians tried to claim that Iran Ajr was on a routine resupply mission to Iranian oil platforms, prompting Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger to comment, Thats the biggest load of groceries Ive ever seen. Iran Ajr was towed into international waters in the Iranian-declared exclusion zone, and deliberately scuttled by the United States. The capture of the LST also proved to be an intelligence collection bonanza, as it included copies of Irans primary war plan in the event of conflict with the United States.

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