January 12, 2014

Naval Forces of the Republic of Iraq. Part 2

Andrey Pospelov, Candidate of historical sciences, Professor of the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of Odessa I. Mechnikov National University.

Part 1. Naval Forces of the Republic of Iraq. On the Way Towards Independence

Part 2. The Logistical Component and Its Development

Despite the fact that almost all ships, boats and auxiliary vessels that had been in the Iraqi Navy before March 20, 2003, were bombed by the U.S. Air Force, reserves for reconstruction of the country's Navy survived.

Firstly, the built in 1986 in Italy and bought by the Iraqi side in 1987, two corvette-type helicopters “Assad”: F-210 “Hussa El Hussair” and F-212 “Tariq ibn Ziyad”. With incomplete Iraqi crews they were in the port of La Spezia, waiting for permission for departure to Iraq in case of cancellation of international sanctions.

Secondly, five large patrol boats of Predator 81 project (type “Nasir” in Iraqi classification), built in 2002-2003 by order of the government of Iraq in the Republic of China (Taiwan). By March 2003, they had been fully equipped and located in the ports of UAE, where during the start of the “Iraqi Freedom” Operation, they were detained by local authorities. Apart from these, in Iraq there was, albeit in a damaged condition, one of the amphibious transports of Finnish construction of the “Al Zahra” type — transport AK-428 “Khawla.”

And finally, thirdly, the Iraqi shipbuilding industry with national projects of warships and boats. During 1991-2003, the shipyard in Basra had been supplying the national Navy with original multipurpose boats of Sawari 6/7 projects. These are small and structurally primitive boats, with displacement from 7 to 80 tons and armed with machine guns. They were used to patrol the Shatt al-Arab, and in the waters 150 miles off the coast of the country. A “Sawari” boat is capable of speeds up to 25 knots. The main combat mission is hidden installation of mine barriers, for which purpose these boats have mine hangars and special equipment designed for 4-12 contact mooring mines of LUGM-145 type, of Iraqi design and make. After the capture by Americans of the main Iraqi Naval base Umm Qasr, in March 2003 there were found 6 boats of “Sawari-7” type there, refitted into mine-layers. 4 of them were afloat and 2 were drowned, but soon raised to the surface and used by the U.S. Navy for sweeping fairways of the base.

The U.S. military's cleaning the waters of Umm Qasr with the boat of Iraq's own project Sawari type, built in Basra.

The U.S. military's cleaning the waters of Umm Qasr with the boat of Iraq's own project Sawari type, built in Basra. http://forums.airbase.ru

Besides “Sawari”, by 2002 Iraqi designers had developed a project of patrol boats such as “Al Uboor.” By 2004, 5 units of this project were supposed to have been built and used exclusively for patrolling the river border with the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) on the Shatt al-Arab. The lead boat was laid in 2002, but was launched only in December 2003. According to official American data, tests of the lead “Al-Uboor”, as well as of the second of this series, finished in spring of 2004, were not held due to the detection of design errors and general obsolescence of the project. In the author's opinion, political considerations and dictate of the winners (occupation authorities of the USA — first of all) alone, played a fateful role in the fate of the project “Al-Uboor”. As they did in stopping the construction of new and withdrawal from the Iraqi Navy of already built “Sawari 6/7”. In the new situation products of Iraq's shipbuilding did not meet tasks assigned to the future Navy of the country.

In view of this, new Iraqi Navy absolutely did not need helicopter missile corvettes, let alone boats built by the national shipbuilding industry. Helicopter missile corvettes are still standing and actually rusting in the Italian port of La Spezia. Although in 2005 it was reported that they were being relocated to Iraq where (in Basra) they had to be utilized.

However, by the time of the official re-creation of the Iraqi Navy in January 2005, the country had only five patrol boats of the “Nasir” type (project Predator 81). Despite the fact that they were relatively new (all built in 2000-2002), and had a modern look, they had been for almost 2 years stored in the open air in the UAE and had largely fallen into disrepair. Taking into consideration that the boats since their construction in Taiwan and until the creation of the Iraqi Coast Defence Forces were under American control, it would appear logical to repair and quickly send them into the ICDF. That is why as early as February 2004 the first two boats RS-102 and RS-103 were put for a repair in a dry dock at Jebel Ali. After the repair, April 30, 2004, they went from Manama (Bahrain) to Umm Qasr, thus having become the first combat boats of the re-created Iraqi Navy. By January 2005 in Iraq arrived three remaining boats RS-101, RS-104 and RS-105, the amount of repair work of which was slightly smaller.

First combat unit of the restored Iraqi Navy — Patrol Boat P-102 of “Nasir” type.

First combat unit of the restored Iraqi Navy — Patrol Boat P-102 of “Nasir” type. http://independencenews.net/

Simultaneously in the territory of Iraq itself, at the shipyard in Basra, Iraqi and U.S. specialists brought to limited combat ready status two patrol boats of the Iraqi project, “Al-Uboor” type. After entering the Iraqi Navy, from time to time they went to sea. They were used mainly as training and support boats, but in 2010 they were enrolled in the reserve.

7 patrol boats proved to be extremely small even for small, re-created in January 2005, Navy of Iraq. Moreover, they did not quite meet modern requirements. In particular, large size boats poorly housed boarding parties (because of tiny premises and a small upper deck) and inflatable boats. Nevertheless, due to the relative simplicity of their design, they were good at patrolling country's territorial waters. Moreover, it turned out that shipbuilding capacities in Basra had preserved their working efficiency. That is why, it was decided on the basis of the “Al-Uboor” project to build a better patrol boat, a draft of which was called “Al-Faw”. February 17, 2005, in order to support the local economy, a contract was signed for the construction of six new Iraqi patrol boats. The first boat of this project PC-201 or Al-Faw-1 was put into operation in the Iraqi Navy six months after construction began, and the last one from the series — PC-206 or Al-Faw-6 — July 17, 2006, i.e., in 18 months after the date of signing the contract. Despite the fact that the basis of “Al-Faw” project was put “Al-Uboor”, the design or appearance of the boats has changed significantly. Funded from the Defence budget of the Interim Government of Iraq in 2005, the total cost of the series was only about 15 million US dollars.

Iraqi Navy patrol boat PC 201 Al-Faw-1.

Iraqi Navy patrol boat PC 201 Al-Faw-1. Photo: Warship Technology. — July / August 2011. — P. 37.

In 2006, as part of the Iraqi Navy there appeared the first auxiliary vessel — “Al Shams” — former amphibious transport AK-428 “Khawla”. Passed over from the shipping company “Iraqi line”, this RO/RO ship had been renovated and partially modernized for use as a vessel for supplying offshore oil platforms and the floating base of Iraqi patrol boats. However, due to the considerable size and primitive equipment installed on it, this auxiliary unit of the Iraqi Navy was not up to its task. It had to be replaced.

Especially for counter-sabotage struggle and immediate protection of oil terminals, in 2005-2008 the United States gave the new Iraqi Navy 10 light speedboats (actually motorboats with rigid body and outboard petrol engines) of the concept “rigid-hulled inflatable boat” (RHIB). Simultaneously, the Iraqi Navy was replenished with 24 light boats of PBR type — “Seaspray” or “Airboats”. It was a modification of the famous boats 9.5 meters long, known as “Piber” or “Plastic”, specially designed by American designers for actions on rivers of Vietnam in 1970s. All of these small-sized combat units were armed with 2-3 machine guns of rifle caliber, light 40mm automatic grenade launchers, hand infantry weapon of the crew (the crew were mainly Marines), Army radio systems and night vision devices.

After entry into the practical stage of signing “KAA Protocols” (May 8, 2008), in the development of the Iraqi Navy began a new phase. The Program of Qualitative Modernization of the Iraqi Navy Ships was developed specially by the established in Umm Qasr Mission of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard of the USA on consulting and training Iraqi Navy — Training and Advisory Mission-Navy (ITAM (N)). Given the sharp shortage of ship- boat forces from the U.S. Coastguard was transferred to the Iraqi Navy 26 light speedboats with aluminum body of “Defender” type (FAB01-FAB26), mainly designed for operations on the Shatt al–Arab River. However, in reality, these boats operate mostly within the country's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. In its turn, Coast Guard of Italy gave Iraqi Navy 4 fast patrol boats of 2010 type (length 12.5 m and displacement of 23 tons) CP-247 — CP -250 (in the Iraqi Navy — P 201 — P 204), as well as 2 more powerful boats of Project 200, 15 meters in length (in the Iraqi Navy P 111 — P 112, details about these boats are not available).

Iraqi and Kuwaiti speedboats of “Defender” type.

Iraqi and Kuwaiti speedboats of “Defender” type. http://northshorejournal.org/

Somewhat earlier, in 2006, the Commandment of the Iraqi Navy, with the participation of the military-political leadership of the United States, signed a contract with the famous Italian shipbuilding firm “Fincantieri Navale Riuniti” (shipyards in Muggiano and Riva Trigoso) for the construction of 4 patrol vessels of Project “Saetta” Mk.4, which is an upgraded version of the Italian Coast Guard ships of “Diciotti” type. The total amount of the contract, which came into force in October 2007, amounted to 105 million US dollars.

The contract included not only building a series of patrol ships, but also training the crews for each of them for 7 weeks in Italy, at the training center of La Spezia. Shipbuilding began in November 2008 and was carried out at a fairly rapid pace. On average, the construction of one boat took 6 to 8 months. During May 2009 — January 2011 all the 4 patrol boats joined the Iraqi Navy and began to protect the marine borders and territorial waters of the country, as well as the entire Northern area of ​​the Persian Gulf. High autonomy of the “Saett” (14 days) and their suitability for autonomous navigation in fresh weather conditions (due to, including high and sturdy steel board) allowed to expand the range of tasks of the restored Iraqi Navy. Apart from the routine patrolling, these ships could be used for rescue operations in the open sea. They had the towing and firefighting equipment to maintain a favorable operational navigation mode on sea trade lanes. Additional features — meteorological and hydrographic studies, as well as maintenance of Iraqi oil platforms “Al-Basra” and “Al-Khor Amiyo” in the Persian Gulf and ensuring security of 5 export oil terminals near the port of Al-Faw, through which Iraq exports 80% to 95 % of oil.

Great expectations were connected with new Italian-built ships of the Iraqi Navy. This is evidenced by two illustrative facts. When June 20, 2009 in Umm Qasr after 28 day sea crossing from La Spezia arrived the lead “Fateh”, it was met by a high-level delegation, which included the Iraqi Defence Minister Abdul Qader Jassim, the Italian Ambassador in Iraq S.E. Maurizio Melanie, Governor of Basra and a number of Shiite religious leaders. And on June 22 the ship headed for joint with the Navy of Kuwait trainings at the Naval base Mina Al-Ahmadi, and then to the port of Manama (Bahrain) for joint trainings with a boat from the Navy of Kuwait.

Patrol boat “Fateh” arriving in Iraq in 2009

Patrol boat “Fateh” arriving in Iraq in 2009. http://www.alwatanalarabi.com

Being part of the Iraqi Navy of such ships capable of being used as flagships of boat detachments, has allowed the Ministry of Transport of Iraq to begin rebuilding its Merchant Marine. Already in early 2009, was signed the Agreement on building the first Iraqi cargo ship, and in September of the same year, Iraq signed a contract with the Swiss campaign “Global Refinery of Switzerland” on co-operating about 66 vessels. And in January 2011 was adopted the first Program of construction of Merchant Marine in Iraq, providing under the government investment program construction within two years of 10 civilian ships, worth a total of 110 million US dollars. Of these, 1 is a passenger ship, 2 container carriers and 4 bulk carriers.

The Iraqi Navy's getting modern Italian-built ships and boats, specially designed for the Coast Guard, has largely restored combat capability and combat strength of the country's Navy. But by a number of elements, the purchased by Iraq by autumn 2009 combat units did not entirely suit the tasks entrusted to Iraqi sailors, especially taking into account the start of the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq. In this regard, by the autumn of 2009 the Pentagon had developed a comprehensive program for the final restoring the Iraqi Navy's combat capabilities, providing for construction of high-speed patrol boats designed to operate both, near the Iraqi coast, and within the 200-mile economic zone of the country. Separately, two coastal supply ships were supposed to be built, the draft of which had yet to be developed.

In September 2009, the Commandment of Ship-building and Weapons of the U.S. Navy, within the framework of the Pentagon's Program, “The Foreign Military Sales”, signed with “Swiftships Shipbuilders” a contract worth 181 million US dollars to design and build 9 patrol boats of Project 35PB1208E-1455 with their further coming part of the Iraqi Navy. The main contract provided for the supply and option of 6 additional vessels, which was subsequently implemented by the Defence Ministry of Iraq. The contract was got by the company from Morgan City (Louisiana). The Agreement also included the logistics for the boats, supplying them with 30mm cannons and machine guns. A separate contract worth 23.55 million US dollars was signed by the American Navy with “Swiftships Shipbuilders" for the supply of spare parts, simulators, training of the crews. The contract provided for a three-month intensive training in the United States of three groups of Iraqi sailors (3 crews in each group) from these boats (96 sailors and naval officers of the Iraqi Navy). For the last 6 boats crew training had to be carried out at the training center, created by the Iraqi Navy at the sea military base in Umm Qasr.

35th patrol boat made by Swiftships firm

35th patrol boat made by Swiftships firm. http://navaltoday.com/

Boats with an all-aluminum welded body and full autonomy of up to 6 days, are designed to perform various tasks, including patrolling coastal waters, the exclusive economic zone of the country at the distance of up to 200 miles from the Iraqi coast, surveillance and reconnaissance, search and rescue operations, inspection of ships, ensuring security of oil platforms and terminals.

The program included the construction and delivery of 15 boats for Iraq in 2012-2014. The first boat P-301 became part of the Iraqi Navy September 24, 2010. However, when on the 5th of July, 2013 the 12th boat of the series P-312 arrived, Iraqi Navy Commandment for political reasons (as part of the start of political rapprochement and expanded cooperation in the Navy sphere with IRI) suspended the implementation of the contract for the remaining 3 boats. In early November 2013 the Iraqi leadership decided to implement the program to the end, since its funding was made back in 2012. But by this time it was already known about the Agreement on cooperation with Iran AGIR Navy. And Washington bluntly refused to build the last batch of these boats.

However, the presence (or absence) of these last 3 units of Project 35PB1208E-1455 did not particularly affect the fighting power of the Iraqi Navy. Especially after it had got at the end of 2012 the two largest ships of the Navy-coastal supply vessels OSV (Offshore Support Vessels) of Project AMP-137. Implementation of this project began in October 2009, when an American company “RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames LLC” (Tampa, Florida) got a contract from the U.S. Navy through the FMS line, for designing and construction for the Iraqi Navy of two multipurpose patrol vessels worth 70.14 million US dollars. The development of the OSV technological project had to be done by a Canadian company “Genoa design international”, based in St. John's (Newfoundland). Taking into consideration the avionics and armament, the total value of the contract was 86 million US dollars, and with the training of the crews — 113 million US dollars.

New ships were to become the largest combat units of the Iraqi Navy, designed to patrol coastal waters in the Northern part of the Persian Gulf and to be used as floating bases and supply vessels for offshore oil platforms. Ships have a steel body construction with aluminum superstructure.

Final (in Umm Qasr Naval Base in January 2012) image of a patrol boat of Project AMP-137 for the Iraqi Navy

Project image of a patrol boat of Project AMP-137 for the Iraqi Navy with various embodiments of the payload project image of a patrol boat of Project AMP-137 for the Iraqi Navy with various embodiments of the payload

Final (in Umm Qasr Naval Base in January 2012) and project image of a patrol boat of Project AMP-137 for the Iraqi Navy with various embodiments of the payload. http://topwar.ru

This project was designed by “RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames LLC” with participation of the famous Jordanian King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB). The construction of both ships was conducted under a subcontract with the American shipyard “Gulf Island Marine Fabricators LLC” in Houma (Louisiana). The lead ship OSV 401 Al Basrah was launched on November 4, 2011 and from May 14 to July 16, 2012 had been tested, and then temporarily joined the U.S. Navy. The second ship OSV 402 Al Fayhaa was launched on February 1, 2012 and submitted to the test August 1, 2012.

December 20, 2012, during a ceremony at the main naval base of Umm Qasr in Iraq, these ships were officially transferred to the Naval Forces of the Republic of Iraq.

In fact, the introduction of the multi-purpose patrol vessels of the “Al Basrah” type into the Iraqi Navy completes the formation of new Navy of the country, which took a total of eight years and about1 billion US dollars.

However, by early 2013, though the Iraqi Navy had quite modern ships, but it had a few drawbacks. Firstly, was not implemented the program of construction of a series of high-speed coastal patrol boats, which were assigned first of all to struggle against maritime terrorism and saboteurs in territorial waters of the country, mainly — near the Faw peninsula, where the main oil export terminals of the country are situated. True, in February the Commandment of shipbuilding and armaments of the U.S. Navy announced the request for proposals for the supply of 15-meter boats for coastal actions for the Iraqi Navy. But this project turned out to be hard to implement because the technologically prepared by American companies projects did not meet financial opportunities, both of Iraq and of the Pentagon's management of FMS.

At this, the available forces of the Iraqi Navy were fulfilling their tasks. Since 16 August 2010, two boats of the “Defender” type of Iraqi Navy captured one of the two suspicious boats whose crew during the past several weeks had robbed 4 trade vessels belonging to foreign owners. However, in 2013 there were more than 20 such cases.

In fact, in the situation of the withdrawal in December 2011, of American troops from Iraq, the task of protecting offshore oil-producing and oil exporting Iraqi infrastructure becomes more urgent. By the middle of 2012 became clear the fundamental mistake of both, the Commandment of the restored Iraqi Navy, and of their U.S. advisers: focus on the protection of marine oil complex of Iraq using only the Navy does not guarantee 100 % security. Particularly clearly it began to manifest itself in the face of rising domestic instability in several countries of the Gulf region, in particular, Bahrain, and of dramatic activation of foreign and military policy of Qatar, which seeks to create a so-called “gas OPEC.” Moreover, a number of Iranian Navy's maneuvers conducted in 2010-2012 (in particular, Velayat-87 in April 2010 and Velayat-91 in January 2013), clearly showed a dramatic increase in combat capabilities of the “Mosquito Fleet” of the Revolutionary Guards of the IRI. Considering also that all Iraqi ports could easily be covered by the field artillery from the territory of Iran, the task of ensuring the safety of maritime coast of the Iraqi Republic and its coastal infrastructure was serious.

Its difficulty was also caused by the fact that the Iraqi Army's military aviation replenished by helicopters and light transport aircrafts, because of severe internal political situation in the country could not give at a permanent basis its aircrafts for patrolling. Besides, they had no special equipment and weapons. It was finally realized in 2013.

Taking into consideration the total absence of aviation in the Iraqi Navy, the Commandment of the Navy of Iraq decided to buy some American UAVs in order to compensate for this deficiency. But the very problem was so severe that neither the type(s) of the purchased UAVs, nor their number has become public knowledge.

In this situation, quite obvious became convergence of Iraq and Iran through their naval departments. Especially because the Iraqi Navy could offer the Islamic Republic not only plans for joint patrolling the Northern part of the Gulf, but also, paradoxical as it might be, the unusual experience of combat training.