Boghammar speedboats vs A6-E loaded with Rockeye cluster bombs....bring it on!
The Iranian frigate Sahand burning stem to stern, attacked by aircraft of U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wing 11
Date 18 April 1988
Location Persian Gulf
Result United States victory
On 18 April, the U.S. Navy attacked with several groups of surface warships, plus aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, and her cruiser
escort, USS Truxtun. The action began with coordinated strikes by two surface groups.
One Surface Action Group, or SAG, consisting of the destroyers USS Merrill (including embarked LAMPS MK I Helicopter Detachment HSL-35 Det 1) and USS
Lynde McCormick, plus the amphibious transport dock USS Trenton and its embarked Marine Air-Ground Task Force (Contingency MAGTF 2-88 from Camp
LeJeune, NC) and the LAMPS (Light Airborne MultiPurpose System) Helicopter Detachment (HSL-44 Det 5) from USS Samuel B. Roberts, was
ordered to destroy the guns and other military facilities on the Sassan oil platform. At 8am, the SAG commander, who was also the commander of
Destroyer Squadron 9, ordered Merrill to radio a warning to the occupants of the platform, telling them to abandon it. The SAG waited 20 minutes, then
opened fire. The oil platform fired back with twin-barrelled 23mm ZU-23 guns. The SAG's guns eventually disabled some of the ZU-23s, and platform
occupants radioed a request for a cease-fire. The SAG complied. After a tug carrying more personnel had cleared the area, the ships resumed exchanging
fire with the remaining ZU-23s, and ultimately disabled them. Cobra helicopters completed the destruction of enemy resistance. The Marines boarded the
platform, and recovered a single wounded survivor (who was transported to Bahrain), some small arms, and intelligence. The Marines planted explosives,
left the platform, and detonated them. The SAG was then ordered to proceed north to the Rakhsh oil platform to destroy it.
As the SAG departed the Sassan oil field, two Iranian F-4s made an attack run, but broke off when Lynde McCormick locked its fire control radar on the
aircraft. Halfway to the Rahksh oil platform, the attack was called off in an attempt to ease pressure on the Iranians and signal a desire for
The other group, which included guided missile cruiser USS Wainwright and frigates USS Simpson and USS Bagley , attacked the Sirri oil platform. Navy
SEALs were assigned to capture, occupy and destroy the Sirri platform but due to heavy pre-assault damage from naval gunfire, it was determined that
an assault was not required.
Iran responded by dispatching Boghammar speedboats to attack various targets in the Persian Gulf, including the American-flagged supply ship Willie
Tide, the Panamanian-flagged oil rig 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. The missile was successfully lured away by chaff.
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 missiles. 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 A-6Es 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.
In 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 1-2-2017 by FlyingFox because: freedom