Operation Praying Mantis was an attack on 18 April 1988, by U.S. naval forces within Iranian territorial waters in retaliation for the Iranian mining
of the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq war and the subsequent damage to an American warship.
Iran responded by dispatching Boghammar speedboats to attack various targets in the Persian Gulf, including the American-flagged supply ship Willy
Tide, the Panamanian-flagged Scan Bay and the British tanker York Marine. All of these vessels were damaged in different degrees. After the attacks,
A-6E Intruder aircraft launched from CVN 65 were directed to the speedboats by an American frigate. The two aircraft, piloted by "Lizards" Lieutenant
Commander James Engler and Lieutenant Paul Webb, dropped Rockeye cluster bombs on the speedboats, sinking one and damaging several others, which then
fled to the Iranian-controlled island of Abu Musa.
Action continued to escalate. Joshan, an Iranian Combattante II Kaman-class fast attack craft, challenged USS Wainwright and Surface Action Group
Charlie. The commanding officer of Wainwright directed a final warning (of a series of warnings) stating that Joshan was to "stop your engines,
abandon ship, I intend to sink you". Joshan responded by firing a Harpoon missile at them. Simpson responded to the challenge by firing four
Standard missiles, while Wainwright followed with one Standard missile. All missiles hit and destroyed the Iranian ship's superstructure but did
not immediately sink it, so Bagley fired a Harpoon of its own; the missile did not find the target. SAG Charlie closed on Joshan, with Simpson, then
Bagley and Wainwright firing guns to sink the crippled Iranian ship.
Two Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters were orbiting about 48 km away when Wainwright decided to drive them away. Wainwright fired two Extended Range
Standard missiles, one of which detonated near an F-4, blowing off part of its wing and peppering the fuselage with shrapnel. The F-4s withdrew, and
the Iranian pilot landed his damaged airplane at Bandar Abbas.
Fighting continued when the Iranian frigate Sahand departed Bandar Abbas and challenged elements of an American surface group. The frigate was spotted
by two Lizard A-6Es while they were flying surface combat air patrol for USS Joseph Strauss.
Iranian frigate Sahand burning from bow to stern on 18 April 1988 after being attacked.
Sahand fired missiles at the A-6Es, which replied with two Harpoon missiles and four laser-guided Skipper bombs. Joseph Strauss fired a Harpoon. Most,
if not all of the shots scored hits, causing heavy damage and fires. Fires blazing on Sahand's decks eventually reached her munitions magazines,
causing an explosion that sank the vessel.
Late in the day, the Iranian frigate Sabalan, departed from its berth and fired a surface-to-air missile at several A-6Es from VA-95. The Intruders
then dropped a Mark 82 laser-guided bomb into Sabalan 's stack, crippling the ship and leaving it burning. The Iranian frigate, stern partially
submerged, was taken in tow by an Iranian tug, and was repaired and eventually returned to service. VA-95's aircraft, as ordered, did not continue the
attack. The A-6 pilot who crippled Sabalan, LCDR James Engler, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Admiral William J. Crowe, Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the actions against Sabalan and the Iranian gunboats.
As the retaliation for the attacks, Iran fired Silkworm missiles (suspected to be the HY-4 version) from land bases against SAG Delta in the Strait of
Hormuz and against USS Gary in the northern central Persian Gulf, but all missed due to the evasive maneuvers and use of decoys by the ships. A
missile was probably shot down by Gary 's 76 mm (3.0 in) gun. The Pentagon and the Reagan Administration later denied that any Silkworm missile
attacks took place probably since it was the only way to keep the situation from escalating further as they had promised before publicly that any such
attacks would merit retaliation against targets on Iranian soil.
edit on 26-2-2015 by FlyingFox because: (no reason given)