Operation Praying Mantis Demonstrates Same Priorities Navy Values Today


Story Number: NNS130417-07Release Date: 4/17/2013 12:25:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- An engagement 25 years ago on April 14, 1988 sparked a determined and quick response four days later from the U.S., known as Operation Praying Mantis, which demonstrated the same priorities the Navy maintains today.

In early 1988, as part of Operation Earnest Will, the U.S. Navy was engaged in maintaining freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf as Iraq and Iran continued in a bloody war. The USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was operating in the region.

Little did anyone know that what would happen that day would draw naval forces into action and alter the course of history.

Watchstanders aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), Northeast of Qatar, sighted three mines floating approximately one-half mile from the ship. Twenty minutes after the first sighting, as Samuel B. Roberts was backing clear of the minefield, it struck a submerged mine. The blast injured 10 Sailors and tore a 21-foot hole in the hull, nearly ripping the warship in half. Quick and determined actions by the crew, who worked for seven hours to stabilize the ship, kept the vessel from sinking.

"We heard about it right away and very shortly thereafter I was told I was going to fly off to Bahrain to help put a plan together and command one of the Surface Action Groups (SAG)," said Vice Adm. (Ret.) James B Perkins, III, who was a Surface Action Group (SAG) commander during Operation Praying Mantis. "We spent the 17th of April flying from one side of the gulf to the other, briefing the SAG commanders as to what the plan was."

Four days after the mine blast, forces, of the now-Joint Task Force Middle East, executed a response -- Operation Praying Mantis. The operation called for the destruction of two oil platforms used by Iran to coordinate attacks on merchant shipping.

"The gas-oil platforms were huge structures," said Perkins. "What I had in mind were the oil platforms off the coast of Santa Barbra. But These were floating cities with berthing quarters and all that sort of stuff," Perkins recalled.

"On the morning [of April 18] we called them up and told them, in Farsi and English, that we were getting ready to destroy them and to get off the platforms," said Perkins. "There was a lot of running around looking for boats to leave the decks."

By the end of that day the coalition air and surface units not only destroyed the two oil rigs but also Iranian units attempting to counter-attack U.S. forces.

Naval aircraft and the destroyer USS Joseph Strauss (DDG 16) sank the Iranian frigate Sahand (F 74) with harpoon missiles and laser-guided bombs. A laser-guided bomb, dropped from a Navy A-6 Intruder, disabled frigate Sabalan (F 73), and Standard missiles launched from the cruiser USS Wainwright (CG 28) and frigates USS Bagley (FF 1069) and USS Simpson (FFG 56) destroyed the 147-foot missile patrol boat Joshan (P 225). In further combat, A-6s sank one Bodghammer high-speed patrol boats and neutralized four more of the speedboats.

"The air wing from Enterprise did a superb job taking on the Bodghammers," said Perkins.

By the end of the operation, U.S. air and surface units had sunk, or severely damaged, half of Iran's operational fleet.

"This particular exercise, in my view, finished the Iranian Navy in the Arabian Gulf," said Perkins. "They were still around - but after that operation, they didn't have as active a stance.

Operation Praying Mantis proved a milestone in naval history. For the first time since World War II, U.S. naval forces and supporting aircraft fought a major surface action against a determined enemy. The success of Praying Mantis and the broad-based allied naval cooperation during Operation Earnest Will proved the value of joint and combined operations in the Gulf and led the way for the massive joint coalition effort that occurred during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The operation also demonstrated the importance of being ready to fight and win today, of providing offshore options to deter, influence and win in an era of uncertainty; and showcased the teamwork, talent and imagination of the Navy's diverse, capable force.

It also proved the value of all the training the Navy had done.

"You have to be ready on a moment's notice," Perkins said. "You may not always have sufficient time to get prepared, so train hard and often. (In this case) it worked out very well."

For more information on Operation Praying Mantis visit Naval History and Heritage Commands website at http://www.history.navy.mil/Special%20Highlights/OperationPrayingMantis/index.html.

For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navhist/.

STORY COMMENTS3 COMMENTS
5/10/2013 9:20:00 AM
GLAD TO READ YOUR COMMENT. I WAS IN THE SAME VS SQUADRON

4/19/2013 9:37:00 PM
I was young ensign at the time and this was my first deployment, assigned to Engineering as MPA. To be precise, from my recollection, JOSHAN was directed to abandon ship by the SAG Commander; words to the affect of ‘abandon ship, I intend to sink you’. JOSHAN responded by firing a harpoon missile which passed safely over the WAINWRIGHT (we fired tons chaff). SIMPSON responded by firing 4 SM-1s in the surface mode, all hits. At this point JOSHAN was a burning hulk with no superstructure. Shortly after we departed the scene, the SAG was directed to return and “put JOSHAN on the bottom”; and so we did, firing numerous 5 inch rounds from WAINWRIGHT and BAGLEY and 76mm rounds from SIMPSON. BAGELY also fired one harpoon missile, but most likely as result of there not being much left of the JOSHAN for the missile to acquire, it too was miss. Our SAG was also responsible to taking out one of the oil platforms used by the Iranians to attack merchant shipping.

4/18/2013 2:31:00 PM
Remember as if it was just yesterday!!! The Big "E" and CAG-11. Almost got green ink in my logbook. Called ourselves the Hormuz Highway Patrol. Ship's Capt. Rocky "Balboa" Spane, and CAG Capt. Bob "Bullet" Canapa; they knew how to Lead!!!. Sadly, we lost our squadron Skipper Anderson, Pilot Chip Roy and Aircrewman Dave Stenstrom toward the end of the deployment. However, it was a memorable time!!! Check it out here: http://navysite.de/cruisebooks/cvn65-88/index.html "All The Young Dudes"

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RELATED PHOTOS
An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).
880418-N-ZZ999-005 PERSIAN GULF (April 18, 1988) An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65). The attack was part of Operation Praying Mantis, which was launched after the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck a mine on April 14, 1988. Is Alvand was hit by three Harpoon missiles plus cluster munitions. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
April 16, 2013
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