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Operation Morvarid (Persian:عملیات مروارید "Operation Pearl") was an operation launched by the Iranian Navy and Iranian Air Force against the Iraqi Navy and Air Force on 28 November 1980 in response to Iraq positioning radar and monitoring equipment on the Al-Bakr and Khor-al-Amaya oil rigs to counter Iranian air operations. The operation resulted in a victory for Iran, which managed to destroy both oil rigs as well as much of the Iraqi Navy and inflicted significant damage to Iraqi ports and airfields. It should not be confused with the Operation Morvarid launched by the NLA in the 1990s.
On 28 November 1980, after Iranian technicians prepared as many aircraft and helicopters as possible, Iranian F-4 Phantoms and F-5 Tiger IIs attacked Iraqi airfields around Basra. They managed to destroy one Iraqi MiG-21 Fishbed on the ground.
During the night of 29 November, six ships of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy's Task Force 421 deployed Iranian marines on the Iraqi oil terminals at Mina al Bakr and Khor-al-Amaya. The marines, supported by AH-1J Sea Cobras, Bell 214s and CH-47C Chinooks, gunned down most Iraqi defenders during a short firefight, then deployed a large number of bombs and mines. They were then evacuated by helicopter and left the Iraqi oil installations and early warning bases in flames.
At the same time, two Iranian Kaman class (Combattante II class) missile boats (Paykan and Joshan) blocked the ports of Al Faw and Umm Qasr, blocking 60 foreign ships and shelling both facilities.
In response the Iraqi Navy deployed P-6 torpedo boats and Osa II class fast-attack craft for a counter-attack. The boats engaged the two Iranian missile boats which managed to sink two Osas with Harpoon missiles. The remaining 3 Osa class missile boats attacked the missile boat Paykan. The crew called IRIAF for help which sent two F-4s (each armed with six AGM-65 Maverick missiles). However by the time they arrived the Paykan had already been sunk, after being hit by two Iraqi P-15 Termit missiles. In response, the F-4s targeted any Iraqi ship in sight, sinking three Osa IIs and 4 P-6s.
Soon another four Iranian F-4s arrived from Shiraz, which bombed the port of Al Faw and together with F-5s destroyed the surrounding Iraqi SAM sites. One Iranian F-4 was hit by an Iraqi SA-7 but managed to make it back to base.
Now Iranian F-14 Tomcat formations joined the battle and together with several F-4s covered the withdrawal of Task Force 421 and bombed Iraqi oil rigs, destroying an Iraqi Aérospatiale Super Frelon helicopter. After this they attacked the Mina al Bakr terminal. The Iraqis scrambled MiG-23 Floggers to defend the terminal. Iranian F-4s then engaged the Iraqi MiG-23MSs and downed three. One Iranian F-4 was downed during the battle. Four Iraqi MiG-23BNs now attacked the Joshan, which managed to shoot two down with SA-7 missiles. Shortly after an Iranian F-14 downed one of the two surviving MiGs, forcing the other one to flee.
The destruction of Iraqi SAM sites and radar and monitoring equipment made it possible for the IRIAF to attack via southern Iraq again. Also the Iraqi Navy never recovered from this operation, which destroyed 80% of its navy.
See also