Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy

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Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy is located in Iran
Bandar Abbas
Bandar Abbas
Bandar Lengeh
Bandar Lengeh
Faror Island
Faror Island
Location of main naval bases of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Founded17 September 1985 (37 years ago) (1985-09-17)
Country Iran
TypeNavy, Maritime land force
RoleNaval warfare, amphibious warfare
Size+20,000 (2020)[1]
Part ofIslamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
HeadquartersTehran[2]: 17 
Bandar Abbas[3]: 15 
Commodore Alireza Tangsiri
EnsignFlag of Iran.svg
FlagFlag of the Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.svg

The Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Persian: نیروی دریایی سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی, romanizedniru-ye daryâyi-e sepâh-e pâsdârân-e enghelâb-e eslâmi; officially abbreviated NEDSA (Persian: ندسا), also known as the Sepah Navy and by the 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.[4] The IRGC has been designated as a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United States.[5][6] 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.[7][8]


The forces are known with their official abbreviation in Persian, "NEDSA".[9] In maritime radio communications, it is addressed as "Sepah Navy".[10]


Iran–Iraq War (1985–1988)[edit]

IRGC speedboats in the Shahadat Maritime Manoeuvre (1987)

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.[11][9] Shortly afterwards, Hossein Alaei was appointed as the commander of the naval forces.[9] 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.[11]

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.[12][13]

The 1988 naval battle between Iran and the US, Operation Praying Mantis, resulted in half of Iran’s operational fleet being destroyed or severely damaged. The US suffered 2 casualties due to an AH-1T Sea Cobra crashing. Iran lost 1 frigate (45 crew members killed), 1 gunboat (11 crew members killed), 3 speedboats, 1 frigate, and 2 platforms.[citation needed]

Engagements with the Royal Navy[edit]

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.[14] 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.[15]

Engagements with the United States Navy[edit]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19][20] 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.[21]

2019 Persian Gulf crisis[edit]

Military doctrine and strategy[edit]

IRGC naval specialty insignias
Maritime Electronics
Maritime Mechanics
Coastal Missile

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.[4][2]

Janes 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.[22]

It has also a Takavar (special force) unit, called Sepah Navy Special Force (S.N.S.F.).[citation needed]

In 2022, the IRGCN had unveiled a new uniform ditching its usual green in favor of white.[23]


Command Current commander Location of headquarters
Naval Regions
1st Region (Saheb al-Zaman) Capt. Abbas Gholamshahi[24] Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan Province
2nd Region (Nouh-e Nabi) Capt. Ramezan Zirahi[24] Bushehr, Bushehr Province
3rd Region (Imam Hussein) Vice Cmdr. Yadollah Badin[24] Mahshahr, Khuzestan Province
4th Region (Sarallah) Vice Cmdr. Mansour Ravankar[24] Asaluyeh, Bushehr Province
5th Region (Imam Mohammad Bagher) Vice Cmdr. Ali Ozmaei[24] Bandar Lengeh, Hormozgan Province
Independent components
Special Force Vice Cmdr. Sadeq Amooie[24] Faror Island, Persian Gulf
Engineering Command Unknown Borazjan, Bushehr Province
Naval Academy Vice Cmdr. Hossein-Ali Zamani Pajouh[24] Zibakenar, Gilan Province
Samen al-Hojaj Naval Base Capt. Parviz Gholipour[24] Babolsar, Mazandaran Province
Imam Ali Independent Naval Base Cdr. Seyyed-Mehdi Mousavi[24] Chabahar, Sistan and Baluchestan Province


Shahid Soleimani catamaran
Azarakhsh (142), firing a missile
Shahid Nazeri catamaran
A group of FB-RIB-33 speedboats
MIL 40 speedboat shooting
Bavar 2

Current ships[edit]

According to 'The Military Balance 2020' of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), the inventory includes:

  1. ^ Unlike IISS categorization of PBFG, Jane's Fighting Ships considers this class of vessel PTFG or fast attack craft.

Speedboat fleet[edit]

In addition to the vessels mentioned above, IRGC operates a fleet of armed speedboats with displacement below 10 tonnes,[1] the exact number of which is unknown.[25] Back in 2007, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimated IRGC had a fleet of 1,000 speedboats that was growing.[26] As of 2011, estimates ranged widely from "hundreds" to "several thousand".[27] The number was put between 3,000 to 5,000 vessels according to most recent reports in 2020.[28]

Classes of speedboats in the inventory include:

Other vessels[edit]

Current aircraft[edit]

Based on the IISS report, as of 2020 Iranian aircraft inventory includes:

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Bell 206 United States multi-role AB-206 Unknown[1]
Mil Mi-17 Russia transport Mi-171 Hip 5[1]

Coastal anti-ship missiles[edit]


  • Hoot, can be launched from IRGCN speedboats and torpedoboats


No. Portrait Commander Took office Left office Time in office Ref.
Hossein Alaei
Alaei, HosseinHossein Alaei17 September 198523 December 19905 years, 67 days
Ali Shamkhani
Shamkhani, AliCommodore
Ali Shamkhani
(born 1955)
23 December 199027 August 19976 years, 247 days[1]
Ali Akbar Ahmadian
Ahmadian, Ali AkbarCommodore
Ali Akbar Ahmadian
27 August 199719 July 20002 years, 327 days[2]
Morteza Saffari
Saffari, MortezaCommodore
Morteza Saffari
19 July 20003 May 20109 years, 288 days[3]
Ali Fadavi
Fadavi, AliCommodore
Ali Fadavi
(born 1961)
3 May 201023 August 20188 years, 112 days[4]
Alireza Tangsiri
Tangsiri, AlirezaCommodore
Alireza Tangsiri
(born 1962)
23 August 2018Incumbent4 years, 42 days[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s The International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) (2020). "Middle East and North Africa". The Military Balance 2020. Vol. 120. Routledge. pp. 348–352. doi:10.1080/04597222.2020.1707968. ISBN 9780367466398. S2CID 219624897.
  2. ^ a b Haghshenass, Fariborz (September 2008), Iran's Asymmetric Naval Warfare (PDF) (Policy Focus), Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  3. ^ Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies (PDF), Office of Naval Intelligence, February 2017, ISBN 978-0160939686
  4. ^ a b 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
  5. ^ Nicole Gaouette (8 April 2019). "Trump designates elite Iranian military force as a terrorist organization". CNN. Archived from the original on 14 May 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Saudi, Bahrain add Iran's IRGC to terror lists - SPA". euronews. 23 October 2018. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  7. ^ Hossein Aryan (15 November 2011), The Artesh: Iran's Marginalized and Under-Armed Conventional Military, Middle East Institute, retrieved 15 December 2015
  8. ^ "Iran navy heightens security in Gulf territorial waters". Xinhua. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Seliktar, Ofira; Rezaei, Farhad (2019), Iran, Revolution, and Proxy Wars, Springer Nature, p. 222, ISBN 9783030294182
  10. ^ "Iran forces warned off UK warship during tanker seizure – audio", The Times of Israel, 29 July 2019, retrieved 1 August 2020
  11. ^ a b Sinkaya, Bayram (2015), The Revolutionary Guards in Iranian Politics: Elites and Shifting Relations, Routledge, p. 121, ISBN 978-1317525646
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Gibson, Bryan R (2010). Covert Relationship: American Foreign Policy, Intelligence, and the Iran-Iraq War, 1980–1988. Praeger. p. 202. ISBN 978-0313386107.
  14. ^ "Timeline: UK-Iran relations". BBC News. 23 March 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2007.
  15. ^ "UK sailors captured at gunpoint". BBC News. 23 March 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  16. ^ Starr, Barbara (7 January 2008). "Iranian boats 'harass' U.S. Navy, officials say". CNN. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  17. ^ Fars News Pentagon Video on Iran-US Confrontation a Clumsy Fake 9 January 2008
  18. ^ "Pentagon: 2 U.S. Navy Boats Held by Iran Military". NBC News.
  19. ^ US releases new images from suspected attacks on Gulf tankers
  20. ^ Iranian republican guard seizes foreign oil tanker persian
  21. ^ Putin’s Gulf security plan depends on Trump
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Elliott Abrams and Behnam Ben Taleblu (7 April 2022), Reducing Pressure on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Raises Risks for America, The National Interest, retrieved 9 April 2022
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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), no. 164, Table 3. IRGCN Operational Districts, p. 30, retrieved 15 July 2020
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h 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
  26. ^ Capaccio, Anthony (25 April 2020), "U.S. Has Gunships Ready to Deliver on Trump's Warning to Iran", Bloomberg, retrieved 15 June 2020
  27. ^ Himes, Joshua (October 2011), Iran's Two Navies: A Maturing Maritime, Institute for the Study of War, p. 13, JSTOR resrep07900
  28. ^ "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.
  29. ^ a b 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, S2CID 110041921
  30. ^ "112 Missile Boats Delivered to IRGC Navy - Defense news". Tasnim News Agency.

External links[edit]