Islamic Republic of Iran Navy
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The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRI Navy) is the smallest of the armed forces in Iran. It is tasked primarily with the defence of the Iranian coastline and its ports.
The IRI Navy originated from the former-Imperial Iranian Navy. Prior to 1971, the Iranian naval fleet was composed primarily of vessels manufactured in the United Kingdom and United States. In the eight years after this, Iran purchased a number of modern vessels manufactured by the same countries, including frigates and destroyers, as well as smaller vessels; with the intention of expanding the reach of the navy into the Indian Ocean. However, this aim was never achieved, due to the effects of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988.
Following the revolution, it was re-established as the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy. Since then, sanctions put in place by the US have prevented it from acquiring any new, American-built vessels, including those which had already been commissioned.
During the 1990s, the navy received a number of new vessels from Russia, China and North Korea. In the same decade, it took part in exercises with both India and Pakistan.
The IRI Navy suffered extensive losses during the Iran-Iraq war, with many ships and smaller vessels being damaged or sunk. Further losses ensued when the US began to provide escorts for Kuwaiti oil tankers, in 1987 and 1988. Iran lost the Iran Ajr, a minelayer, to US forces in 1987. In 1988, the IRI Navy almost sank the USS Samuel B Roberts. In retaliation, the US sank two Iranian ships, the Sahand and Joshan, as well as a number of smaller Iranian vessels.
The IRI Navy currently consists of approximately 28,000 personnel.
It has 65 aircraft in addition to 5 frigates, 3 corvettes, 24 fast attack craft and 98 large patrol craft. It also has more than 100 light missile boats and 13 hovercraft. It is estimated that the IRI Navy has over 250 small patrol craft for use on the coastal and inshore waters. It currently has 13 submarines of various types. The IRI Navy has three Russian-made SSK Kilo-class submarines; as well as a number of smaller, Nahang and Ghadir-class, submarines. These provide support for the navy’s other vessels.
The IRI Navy uses a variety of different ports and facilities around the country. Its main headquarters are located at Bandar-e Abbas, but there are also a number of other important bases and facilities, including Bandar Beheshti, Bandar-e Anzali and Bushehr.
Many of the vessels in the Iranian naval fleet are ageing. Iran’s three destroyers are all more than 50 years old and they are kept in reserve. The largest active ships are the frigates and corvettes. The navy still retains a number of other, older vessels, including: three frigates that are more than 25 years old, and three corvettes which are more than 30 years old. Some of these vessels have been updated with new equipment.
A lot of the older equipment belonging to the navy was constructed by American and British manufacturers, prior to the revolution. The current modernisation of the IRI Navy is primarily based on new acquisitions of equipment from North Korea, China and Russia.
The modern Islamic Republic of Iran Navy aims to expand and modernise itself. Iran has also worked on improving the security and defences of its ports. New acquisitions made by the navy include three Kilo-class submarines from Russia, and ten Chinese Houdong fast attack vessels. More recently, Iran has been developing a domestic manufacturing industry in order to produce its own naval vessels, including submarines. These include: the Iranian-built Al Sabiha 15, Nahang and Ghadir classes. Other Iranian-built vessels in the navy include: the frigates Moudge I and Moudge II, and the Sina-class missile boats Peykan and Joshan.
The IRI Navy’s focus for the future is on the development of new frigates and corvettes, and on the acquisition of more fast, medium to large, modern vessels. The current core of the naval fleet are its small missile boats, which include five Chinese-built, Cat 14 fast attack boats, which were acquired more recently.
The navy also includes marines and special forces called Takavaran.
Iran is one of the few nations in the Persian Gulf to have a naval air arm: the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy Aviation. This branch of the IRI Navy mainly consists of a number of older, American-built aircraft; mostly dating from the 1960s and 1970s. It also has some more recently-built, European aircraft.
The aircraft inventory includes: Agusta Bell AB 205As, AB 206s and AB 212ASWs; Agusta Sikorsky ASH-3D Sea Kings and Sikorsky RH-53D Sea Stallions.
Since 2000, the air arm has received a small number of new aircraft, in the form of Mil Mi-17 helicopters, from Russia.
In addition to its helicopters, the navy also operates aeroplanes. These include: Shrike Commanders, Dassault Falcon 20Es and Fokker F27 Mk 400Ms and Mk 600s.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy is appointed by the Supreme Leader. The current commander is Admiral Habibollah Sayyari.
The IRI Navy has participated in naval exercises with a number of other countries. It has also taken part in joint exercises with the Islamic Republic of Iran Army and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.
The navy has also sent warships into the Gulf of Aden to help tackle the piracy problem in this region, although it has not worked in conjunction with the other countries that are conducting anti-piracy operations in the area.
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