Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
|Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Navy|
|Founded||17 September 1985|
|Part of||Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps|
|Commodore Alireza Tangsiri|
The Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Persian: نیروی دریایی سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی, romanized: niru-ye daryâyi-e sepâh-e pâsdârân-e enghelâb-e eslâmi; officially abbreviated NEDSA (Persian: ندسا), also known as Sepah Navy and by English acronym IRGCN) is the naval warfare service of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps founded in 1985, and one of the two maritime forces of Iran parallel to the conventional Islamic Republic of Iran Navy. IRGC's Navy has steadily improved its capabilities to support unconventional warfare and defend Iran's offshore facilities, coastlines, and islands in the Persian Gulf.
Iran–Iraq War (1985–1988)
On 17 September 1985, Iran's supreme leader and commander-in-chief Ruhollah Khomeini ordered Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to create three branches including navy. Shortly afterwards, Hossein Alaei was appointed as the commander of the naval forces. The navy was tasked to operate in the Persian Gulf and by 1987 were able to play an active role against Iraqi Navy in the Iran–Iraq War.
During the "Tanker War" phase of the Iran–Iraq War, beside the regular Iranian Navy, IRGC started employing swarm tactics and surprise attacks using Boghammar speedboats fitted with rocket launchers, RPGs, and heavy machine guns. Attacks on Kuwaiti tankers, an Iraqi ally, eventually dragged the US Navy into the Persian Gulf to escort Kuwaiti tankers. As a response, IRGC ordered mining west of Farsi Island on the route of the very first caravan—the Kuwaiti supertanker SS Bridgeton escorted by four US warships—which successfully hit the tanker itself.
On 21 June 2004, eight sailors and Royal Marines were seized by forces of the Revolutionary Guards' Navy while training Iraqi river patrol personnel in the Persian Gulf. On 23 March 2007, fifteen sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Cornwall were seized by forces of the Revolutionary Guards' Navy in the Persian Gulf.
On 7 January 2008, US officials claimed five Iranian speedboats 'harassed' United States Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf. IRGC speedboats made threatening moves and in one case even came within 180 meters of US warships. The US Navy also claimed to have received a radio transmission from Iranian boats saying: "I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes". After this US ships were said to have taken up their gun positions and were ready to open fire at one of the boats when the Iranians turned away and one of the Iranian speedboats (allegedly) dropped white boxes into the water in front of the U.S. ships, it was not clear what was in the boxes.
Iranian officials and military commanders later downplayed the incidents as normal and denied having sent the radio transmission. After the US released a video showing Iranian speedboats swarming US ships in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran released its own video of the incident after suggesting the US video was staged.
On 12 January 2016,10 American sailors were apprehended by IRGC officials off the coast of Farsi Island, which doubles as a naval installation for the IRGC. American officials stated that the sailors were on a training mission when one of their boats experienced a mechanical failure. During this time the vessel drifted into Iranian territorial waters spurring IRGC naval units to respond and apprehend the sailors with both vessels. US Secretary of State John Kerry engaged in a phone call with Iranian officials to defuse the situation. Iranian officials said that the sailors were in custody, but would be freed within hours, understanding that the incident was a mistake.
In 2019, the IRGC Navy allegedly carried out a series of attacks on international vessels in the Gulf of Oman and seized vessels taking them to Iran. As a result the United States started the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) which increases overall surveillance and security in key waterways in the Middle East, according to the Deputy Secretary of Defense Michael Mulroy.
2019 Persian Gulf crisis
Military doctrine and strategy
IRGC Navy and Artesh Navy overlap functions and areas of responsibility, but they are distinct in terms of how they are trained and equipped— and more importantly also in how they fight. The Revolutionary Guards Navy has a large inventory of small fast attack craft, and specializes in asymmetric hit-and-run tactics. It is more akin to a guerrilla force at sea, and maintains large arsenals of coastal defense and anti-ship cruise missiles and mines.
Jane's recognizes the IRGCN as the resuscitator of fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) in the modern era, as well as the most prominent practitioner of "small boat swarm tactics that combine speed, mass, co-ordinated manoeuvre, low radar signature, and concealment" among naval forces of the world.
|Command||Current commander||Location of headquarters|
|1st Region (Saheb al-Zaman)||Capt. Abbas Gholamshahi||Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan Province|
|2nd Region (Nouh-e Nabi)||Capt. Ramezan Zirahi||Bushehr, Bushehr Province|
|3rd Region (Imam Hussein)||Vice Cmdr. Yadollah Badin||Mahshahr, Khuzestan Province|
|4th Region (Sarallah)||Vice Cmdr. Mansour Ravankar||Asaluyeh, Bushehr Province|
|5th Region (Imam Mohammad Bagher)||Vice Cmdr. Ali Ozmaei||Bandar Lengeh, Hormozgan Province|
|Special Force||Vice Cmdr. Sadeq Amooie||Faror Island, Persian Gulf|
|Engineering Command||Unknown||Borazjan, Bushehr Province|
|Naval Academy||Vice Cmdr. Hossein-Ali Zamani Pajouh||Zibakenar, Gilan Province|
|Samen al-Hojaj Naval Base||Capt. Parviz Gholipour||Babolsar, Mazandaran Province|
|Imam Ali Independent Naval Base||Cdr. Seyyed-Mehdi Mousavi||Chabahar, Sistan and Baluchestan Province|
According to 'The Military Balance 2020' of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), the inventory includes:
In addition to the vessels mentioned above, IRGC operates a fleet of armed speedboats with displacement below 10 tonnes, the exact number of which is unknown. Back in 2007, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimated IRGC had a fleet of 1,000 speedboats that was growing. As of 2011, estimates ranged widely from "hundreds" to "several thousand". The number was put between 3,000 to 5,000 vessels according to most recent reports in 2020.
Classes of speedboats in the inventory include:
- Boghammar or Tareq-class (IISS estimates c.40 operational in 2020)
- FB-class (RIB-33)
- Murce-class (MIG-G-0900)
- Zoljenah-class catamaran
- Bahman-class catamaran
- Bladerunner or Seraj-class
- Bavar-class, wing-in-ground effect air vehicles
Based on the IISS report, as of 2020 Iranian aircraft inventory includes:
|Bell 206||United States||multi-role||AB-206||Unknown|
|Mil Mi-17||Russia||transport||Mi-171 Hip||5|
Coastal anti-ship missiles
- Noor, based on the Chinese C-802 (+)
- Kowsar, based on the Chinese C-701 (+)
- Kowsar, based on the Chinese TL-10 (+)
- Nasr-1, based on the Chinese TL-6 (+)
- HY-2 Silkworm (+)
- Qader, medium-range anti-ship cruise missile
- Persian Gulf (Khalij Fars) , Anti ship ballistic missile (ASBM) based on Fateh-110.
- Hoot, can be launched from IRGCN speedboats and torpedoboats
Supreme Leader of Iran
Intelligence Protection Organization
Imam Hossein University
University of Command and Staff
|No.||Portrait||Commander||Took office||Left office||Time in office||Ref|
|1||Hossein Alaei||1985||1990||4–5 years||–|
Ali Akbar Ahmadian
- The International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) (2020). "Middle East and North Africa". The Military Balance 2020. 120. Routledge. pp. 348–352. doi:10.1080/04597222.2020.1707968. ISBN 9780367466398.
- Haghshenass, Fariborz (September 2008), Iran’s Asymmetric Naval Warfare (PDF) (Policy Focus), Washington Institute for Near East Policy
- Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies (PDF), Office of Naval Intelligence, February 2017, ISBN 978-0160939686
- Michael Connell (12 March 2013), Gulf III: Iran’s Power in the Sea Lanes, The Iran Primer, United States Institute of Peace, retrieved 5 January 2016
- Hossein Aryan (15 November 2011), The Artesh: Iran’s Marginalized and Under-Armed Conventional Military, Middle East Institute, retrieved 15 December 2015
- "Iran navy heightens security in Gulf territorial waters". news.xinhuanet.com. Xinhua. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
- Seliktar, Ofira; Rezaei, Farhad (2019), Iran, Revolution, and Proxy Wars, Springer Nature, p. 222, ISBN 9783030294182
- "Iran forces warned off UK warship during tanker seizure – audio", The Times of Israel, 29 July 2019, retrieved 1 August 2020
- Sinkaya, Bayram (2015), The Revolutionary Guards in Iranian Politics: Elites and Shifting Relations, Routledge, p. 121, ISBN 978-1317525646
- Crist, David (2013). The twilight war : the secret history of America's thirty-year conflict with Iran. New York: The Penguin Press. ISBN 978-1-101-57234-4.
- Gibson, Bryan R (2010). Covert Relationship: American Foreign Policy, Intelligence, and the Iran-Iraq War, 1980–1988. Praeger. p. 202. ISBN 978-0313386107.
- "Timeline: UK-Iran relations". BBC News. 23 March 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2007.
- "UK sailors captured at gunpoint". BBC News. 23 March 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- Starr, Barbara (7 January 2008). "Iranian boats 'harass' U.S. Navy, officials say". edition.cnn.com. CNN. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
- Fars News Pentagon Video on Iran-US Confrontation a Clumsy Fake 9 January 2008
- "Pentagon: 2 U.S. Navy Boats Held by Iran Military". NBC News.
- US releases new images from suspected attacks on Gulf tankers aljazeera.com
- Iranian republican guard seizes foreign oil tanker persian abcnews.go.com
- Putin’s Gulf security plan depends on Trump al-monitor.com
- Scott, Richard (March 2014), "Surviving the Swarm: Navies Eye New Counters to the FIAC Threat" (PDF), Jane’s Navy International, Jane's Information Group, 119 (2): 20–27, ISSN 2048-3457,
Indeed, the IRGCN's unconventional use of these craft in the Gulf's 'tanker wars' of the late 1980s can in hindsight be seen as marking the birth of the fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) in the modern era. However, there is no doubt that the asymmetric surface threat has taken on increased significance over the past decade, with the IRGCN still recognised as the foremost –though by no means only– practitioner of small boat 'swarm' tactics that combine speed, mass, co-ordinated manoeuvre, low radar signature, and concealment. Moreover, the IRGCN has continued to invest significantly in FIAC platforms and weapons and to exercise this capability regularly in wargames in the Gulf.
- Nadimi, Farzin (April 2020), "Iran's Evolving Approach to Asymmetric Naval Warfare: Strategy and Capabilities in the Persian Gulf" (PDF), The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Policy Focus) (164), Table 3. IRGCN Operational Districts, p. 30, retrieved 15 July 2020
- Iran Military Power: Ensuring Regime Survival and Securing Regional Dominance (PDF), Defense Intelligence Agency, August 2019, p. 53, ISBN 978-0-16-095157-2, DIA-Q-00055-A
- Capaccio, Anthony (25 April 2020), "U.S. Has Gunships Ready to Deliver on Trump's Warning to Iran", Bloomberg, retrieved 15 June 2020
- Himes, Joshua (October 2011), Iran's Two Navies: A Maturing Maritime, Institute for the Study of War, p. 13, JSTOR resrep07900
- "Iran retaliates for the killing of Qassem Suleimani", Economist, 8 January 2020, retrieved 15 June 2020,
Strategists have speculated that Iran could use its fleet of 3,000 to 5,000 speedboats to mount swarming attacks on larger warships in the confined waters of the Persian Gulf, though this concept remains untested.
- Singh, Abhijit (2010), "Dark Chill in the Persian Gulf – Iran's Conventional and Unconventional Naval Forces", Maritime Affairs, National Maritime Foundation, 6 (2): 108–113, doi:10.1080/09733159.2010.559788, ISSN 1946-6609
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