Islamic Republic of Iran Navy IRIN Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy
Iran has two naval forces: the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, or IRIN, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, or IRGCN. The IRIN is the naval branch of Iran's Artesh, the traditional military force that existed prior to the 1979 revolution. In addition to the original ground forces element, the IRGC also formalized an emerging naval component in the mid-1980s, following successful amphibious operations in the southern marshlands of Iraq. Over the intervening decades, the IRGCN was politically favored over the IRIN and has capitalized on this status to acquire advanced weaponry and better platforms to develop additional capabilities.
By 2013 there were 18,000 IRIN naval personnel, and 25,000 IRGCN naval personnel, and nearly 8,000 naval infantry. The Iranian navy had always been the smallest of its three principal services, having about 14,500 personnel in 1986, down from 30,000 in 1979. Throughout the 1970s, the role of the navy had expanded as Iran recognized the need to defend the region's vital sea-lanes.
The navy is perhaps Iran's most important military service. The Persian Gulf must remain open for Iranian commerce since the Gulf is the primary route for all of Iran's oil exports and most of its trade. However, Iran's current navy structure is outdated and in need of substantial modernization, an effort that Iran is gradually attempting to accomplish. For the present, Iran's naval capacity remains limited and barely supports its status as essentially a coastal defense force. Iran's economic dependence on the free and uninterrupted use of the Persian Gulf for its commercial shipping combined with its past lessons in confrontations with the United States Navy in the 1987-88 time frame have reinforced Iran's determination to rebuild its naval forces.
In 2007 the IRIN and IRGCN underwent a reorganization that included new base openings and a re-division of duties between the navies. Although the two navies had traditionally shared operations in the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman, the reorganization split the IRIN and IRGCN areas of responsibility. The IRIN was assigned to the Gulf of Oman and Caspian Sea, while the IRGCN was given full responsibility for operations in the Persian Gulf. This reorganization and the establishment of new bases are in keeping with Iranian naval strategy in the event of a conflict. Because Iran's naval doctrine is based upon access denial, the realignment of IRIN assets further into the Gulf of Oman and the costly for the perceived benefit. It does not attempt to win by defeating the enemy's military forces. Instead it directly attacks the minds of enemy decision makers to destroy the enemy's political will. The geographic split of the two services not only streamlines command and control by reducing the need to coordinate and deconfhct between different naval services operating in the same water space, but should also reduce confusion or miscommunication that an enemy could exploit in wartime.
Iran's navy personnel as of 2014 were young and inexperienced, and many of them were riflemen and marines based on Persian Gulf islands. At higher levels, there had been a fierce rivalry between the IRGC and regular navies for scarce resources. Due to these shortcomings, Iran's three Kilo-class submarines would be vulnerable, and they were limited to laying mines in undefended waters. Mines, however, are one area in which Iran had made advances. It can produce non-magnetic, free-floating, and remote-controlled mines. It may have taken delivery of pressure, acoustic, and magnetic mines from Russia. Also, Iran was negotiating with China for rocket-propelled rising mines.
The Navy's airborne component, including an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and minesweeping helicopter squadron and a transport battalion, continued to operate despite wartime losses. Of six P-3F Orion antisubmarine aircraft, perhaps two remained operational, and of twenty SH-3D ASW helicopters, possibly only ten were airworthy. Despite overall losses, the navy increased the number of its marine battalions from two to three between 1979 and 1986.
Iranian naval forces held several exercises in early 2001 to improve their capabilities and also have had exchange visits with Pakistan and India. As a result, defense officials called for the consolidation of Iran's commercial and military fleets to increase their strengths, overcome any weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities, and address future threats. Iranian naval forces held the three-day Fath-9 exercises in the northern end of the Persian Gulf in Mahshahr during the first week of March 2001. These exercises involved 6,000 people from the regular navy and air force, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps navy and air corps, the Basij Resistance Forces, and the Law Enforcement Forces.
Iran's navy held more than a week of war games in the Persian Gulf in early 2007 using tactical submarines and small vessels carrying missile launchers. The March 2007 exercises were the latest in a series of maneuvers staged by Iran's military in the Persian Gulf, where the United States had deployed two aircraft carriers in recent months, a move widely seen as a warning to Tehran over its nuclear ambitions. Though Iran cannot come close to matching US forces, it could cause trouble for shipping in the Persian Gulf and disrupt the flow of oil in the waterway through which 40% of the world's traded oil flows.
The Iranian navy has developed its presence in international waters since 2010, regularly launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates operating in the area.
Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced at a press conference 25 February 2013 the presence of the Navy’s 24th flotilla in the Pacific… Sayyari emphasized, “This is the first time that we have passed the Strait of Malacca and entered the Pacific Ocean," and added that the warships would pay a port call at Zhangjiagang, China. An Iranian warship’s passage through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean on 22 February 2011 and Iranian warships paying port calls in the Sudan a year later reinforced the fact that the Iranian Navy has expanded its operational reach. The push into the Pacific came less than three months after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that the Iranian Navy’s new emphasis should be expanding its reach beyond the Persian Gulf.
In January 2014, Iranian navy announced that its deployed naval group, consisting of a frigate and a replenishment ship, were making a voyage to the Atlantic, with a port visit to South Africa, to demonstrate the country's ability to project power beyond the Middle East. Iranian warships were ordered to approach US maritime borders as a response to Washington’s stationing of US vessels in the Persian Gulf. Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad said “Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States maritime borders, and this move has a message". Haddad, commander of the Iranian navy’s northern fleet, said the vessels had started their voyage toward the Atlantic Ocean via “waters near South Africa". In Washington, a US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, cast doubt on any claims that Iranian ships are approaching US maritime borders. But the official added that “ships are free to operate in international waters". The United States and its allies regularly stage naval exercises in the Gulf, saying they want to ensure freedom of navigation in the waterway through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil exports pass.
Iranian Navy announced 13 April 2014 that it had called off plan to deploy warships near U.S. territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean. IRIN Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said in Tehran such changes in naval plans are routine, “considering the situation in the region." Adm. Sayyari, however, did not provide specific reasons for the change, but hinted that the “rise in piracy in the Gulf of Aden" might have prompted the decision to cancel deployment to the Atlantic.
Iranian navy ships left for waters near Yemen on: April 08, 2015, amid a Saudi-led airstrike campaign to halt the advance of Iranian-backed Shi'ite rebels in the country. Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari saif the fleet will provide safety for "Iran's shipping lanes" and protect the country's "interests in the high seas." Sayyari also said Iran's navy will seek to keep commercial ships safe from pirates. The fleet, which includes a destroyer and another vessel, sailed to the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the main access point to the Red Sea for ships going to the Suez Canal. The Alborz destroyer and Bushehr logistics vessel were on a patrol mission in the Gulf of Aden, south of Yemen, and the Red Sea. Egypt also sent naval vessels to waters off the Yemeni coast.