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Saddam's Navy

The Iraqi naval force was founded on July 2, 1937 as four ships were reached to Basra. It developed in three stages. The first one was started in 1937-1958 by foundation of river force that given and carried out many duties during this period. While the second stage was started during 14th of July revolution 1958, as at the beginning of 1960s naval force appeared and developed by adding many torpedoe boats and ships. The naval force returned to a stagnant condition because of the 14th of July Revolution in 1958.

Following the 17-30 of July Revolution in 1968, Iraqi command began to rise and develop naval force. A new strong sea fleet was built that could prevent the aggression against Iraq in 1980 as sea officers proved capable of shooting Iranian sea targets. The period was considered the third stage of Iraqi naval force as characterized with inclusiveness national dimension. Naval force was developed in Arab Gulf area, as it was a critical area exposed to foreing forces because of its strategic importance.

The Arab Gulf Academy for Sea Studies was established in Basra to offer military and naval engineering staff for Iraq and Arab states, offering a bachelor's degree in war and engineering naval sciences. The academy specialized in making and encouraging scientific researches, in addition, developing technical and scientific experiences and naval proficiencies. The academy considered as a legal personality had independence material and management managed by administrative board from naval force and representative from upper council for naval affairs.

Headquartered in Basra, the 5,000-man navy was the smallest branch of the armed forces in early 1988, and, in contrast to the Iranian navy, had played virtually no role in the war. The Iraqi Navy, never a match for Iran's, was virtually inactive since the war broke out. Iraq's second naval facility at Umm Qasr took on added importance after 1980, in particular because the Shatt al Arab waterway, which leads into Basra, was the scene of extensive fighting. It was at Umm Qasr that most of the Iraqi navy's active vessels were based in early 1988. Between 1977 and 1987, Iraq purchased from the Soviet Union eight fast-attack OSA-class patrol boats--each equipped with Styx surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs).

In late 1986, from Italy, Iraq obtained four Lupo class frigates, and six Wadi Assad class corvettes equipped with Otomat-2 SSMs. Although the four frigates and the six corvettes were held in Italy under an embargo imposed by the Italian government, these purchases signaled Iraq's intention to upgrade its naval power.

By the summer of 1990 the navy consisted of a collection of Osa guided-missile patrol boats and numerous auxiliaries. Iraq's Soviet-built Osas were outfitted with the Styx missile with a maximum range of 46 or 95 kilometers, depending on the variant. While offensive capabilities were limited, the navy also had the 100-km range Silkworm surface-to-surface missile, whose half-ton warhead could sink a frigate or damage a battleship.

During the Gulf War the primary threat posed to US forces by the Iraqi Navy came from its extensive inventory of naval mines. Iraqi missile-armed patrol boats, including those captured from Kuwait, missile-equipped naval helicopters, and coastal defense missiles presented a lesser threat. Styx, Exocet, and Silkworm missiles constituted the inventory available to Iraqi naval forces.

Iraq had a diverse inventory of moored-contact and bottom-influence mines acquired from a variety of sources. It additionally may have indigenously produced both types of mines, by reverse engineering them from foreign models. Although the iraqi Navy did not have a sophisticated mine warfare doctrine or dedicated minelaying platforms, practically any ship can carry and deploy mines. Iraq can also use helicopters in this role. The Iraqi leadership undoubtedly recognized the effectiveness of Iranian mining during the Persian Gulf War, and had the potential to mine GCC ports, shipping lanes, or operating areas of US naval forces. While the crude Iranian moored-contact mines were easily neutralized once located, iraqi bottom-influence mines presented a far more difficult problem for US and allied mine countermeasure (MCM) Forces.

The Iraqi surface threat consisted of nine aging Osa I/II Patrol boats armed with the SSN-2A/B (STYX) missile; the missile has a range 25 nm. These boats were poorly maintained, and the number of mission-capable units was unknown at the outset of the Gulf War. Iraqi Osa's did not train for any type of tactical scenario and had not fired a styx missile since the early 1980's. Their ability to close and successfully engage US warships was suspect. Even if Iraq had acquired the more advanced Styx, the navy had never practiced over-the-horizon targeting and was probably be limited to line-of-sight engagements.

During the first days of its August 1990 invasion, Iraq captured 6 Exocet-equipped kuwaiti patrol boats (1 Lurssen FPB-57 and 5 Lurssen TNC-45's), and a cache of more than 100 MM-40 Excocet missiles. The Iraqi Navy was apparently operating at least one of the TNC-45's, but its ability to successfully fire an Exocet in combat was doubtful, given the navy's general lack of proficiency and its unfamiliarity with the system. Nonetheless, the threat posed by the captured Kuwaiti boats could not be discounted.

At the beginning of the Gulf War, Iraq had CSSC-3 Silkworm coastal defense missiles deployed to two sites, al-Faw in eastern iraq and Ras al-Qulayah naval base in Kuwait. These sites covered both the iraqi and Kuwaiti coastlines and are intended to defend against the approach of allied warships and a US amphibious assault.

Iraq had an inventory of an estimated 50 Silkworms that hade a maximum effective range of approximately 50 NM (fuel exhaustion range 60 NM). During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq launched Silkworms agalnst oil tankers transiting to Bandar Khomeini but had little success because the missiles were used at the edge of their range envelopes. Approximately 1 in 10 missiles hit its target. Although iraq had not fired a silkworm since 1985, the Navy probably had the capability to use the system effectively at shorter ranges.

The Iraqi navy had a small contingent of seven Super Frelon helicopters, four of which may have been operational. The Super Frelons carried the AM-39 Exocet anti-surface missile and, with a combat radius of approximately 150 NM, could threaten shipping in the Northern Persian Gulf. Super Frelons operated with some success against merchant convoys transiting to Bandar Khomeini during the war with Iran.

At the time of the Gulf War, the Iraqi Navy was a coastal defense force that could not effectively operate far from territorial waters. Its ships, aircraft, and coastal defense missiles posed a minimal threat to US naval forces. Nonetheless, Iraq could have covertly deployed a variety of bottom-influence and moored-contact mines that could have created a hazard to all shipping in the Gulf.

Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM resulted in the total destruction of the Iraqi Navy. US Naval forces literally eliminated the Iraqi Navy and projected power ashore. Coalition surface combatants, helicopters, carrier-based aircraft, and land-based P-3s all contributed to the destruction of more than 100 Iraqi vessels. The Iraqi Navy had 19 ships sunk and 6 vessels damaged.

As of late 2002, of the units that remained, most were in a poor state of repair, seldom operate even for training purposes, and the crews were estimated to be in a poor state of readiness. The Iraqi navy consisted of three major surface classes: an 1850-ton Class FFT, a BOGOMOL Class PC, and an OSA, I Class PTG. Minor classes include: PB 90 Class PB, ZHUK Class PB, BHC SR N6 WINCHESTER Class LCPA, YEVGENYA Class MSI and NESTIN Class MSB. There are, however, numerous units of smaller patrol boat size, such as the SWARY classes. Iraq is estimated to have more than 150 of these smaller boats. Although these boats were typically the size of small to medium power/speed boats and not heavily armed, they could be used for limited mining or raiding missions.

On 02 February 1999 U.S. jets dropped precision guided bombs on a battery of Iraqi CSSC-3 Silkworm coastal defense missiles which had been recently deployed to the al-Faw peninsula at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. From there they potentially threatened US naval vessels and commercial shipping off the coast of Kuwait, the justification given for the US attack, but they were also within range of downtown Kuwait City.

The Iraqi Navy had about 600 personnel total. The major bases are at Khor-az-Zubayr and Umm Qasr.

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Page last modified: 12-01-2012 18:10:39 ZULU