Iran Table of Contents
The Iranian navy has always been the smallest of the three 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 (see table 10, Appendix). In 1977 the bulk of the fleet was shifted from Khorramshahr to the newly completed base at Bandar-e Abbas, the new naval headquarters. Bushehr was the other main base; smaller facilities were located at Khorramshahr, Khark Island, and Bandar-e Khomeini (formerly known as Bandar-e Shahpur). Bandar-e Anzelli (formerly known as Bandar-e Pahlavi) was the major training base and home of the small Caspian fleet, which consisted of a few patrol boats and a minesweeper. The naval base at Bandar Beheshti (formerly known as Chah Bahar) on the Gulf of Oman had been under construction since the late 1970s and in late 1987 still was not completed. Smaller facilities were located near the Strait of Hormuz.
The Navy's airborne component, including an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and minesweeping helicopter squadron and a transport battalion, continued to operate in 1986 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.
Entirely of foreign origin, Iran's naval fleet has suffered major losses since the beginning of the war, when it was made up of American- and British-made destroyers and frigates, and some sixty smaller vessels and one of the largest Hovercraft fleets in the world. The Hovercraft had been expressly chosen to operate in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf and proved useful in the 1971 occupation of Abu Musa and the Tunbs. After the cancellation of foreign orders in 1979, the rapid matériel advance of the navy was halted. For example, the shah's government had ordered six Spruance-class destroyers equipped for antiaircraft operations and three diesel-powered Tang-class submarines from the United States. Washington canceled the sale of these vessels, selling the submarines to Turkey and absorbing the destroyers into the United States Navy. In 1979 Khomeini also canceled an order for six type-209 submarines from West Germany.
What naval vessels remained in 1987 suffered from two major problems--lack of maintenance and lack of spare parts. After the departure of British-United States maintenance teams, the Iranian navy conducted only limited repairs, despite the availability of a completed Fleet Maintenance Unit at Bandar-e Abbas; consequently, several ships were laid up. Lack of spare parts also plagued the navy more than other services, because Western naval equipment was less widely available on world arms markets than other equipment.
Iran's ambitious plans for escort and patrol capabilities in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean may not be realized until the Bandar Beheshti naval facility is completed. The country's interest in navigation through the Strait of Hormuz has not diminished, as the contemplated deployment of Chinese-made Silkworm HY-2 surface-to-surface missiles on Larak Island in 1987 clearly indicated. This development underscored Iran's interest in Gulf waters and the navy's role, along with that of Pasdaran units, in protecting them or in denying them to others.
Data as of December 1987