Iranian Naval “Oops” Moment! (Friendly Fire, Not so Friendly!)

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A Brief History

On May 11, 2020, CNN and other news agencies reported the Iranian Navy while conducting exercises in the Gulf of Oman accidentally killed 19 of their own sailors and wounded another 15.  As we have reported many times in the past, Naval Oops Moments seem to be without any limit, with no navy in the world immune from catastrophic blunders.  We have also reported on incidents concerning so called “friendly fire,” when your own people accidentally shoot, blow up or target their own comrades or equipment.  Sometimes both of these military mishaps come together and combine into a Naval Oops/Friendly Fire incident, such as the one discussed here.

Digging Deeper

Iran, like many countries wracked by the ravages of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, is also suffering from the debilitating sanctions placed on the country by the United States and other nations that seek to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and discourage Iran from supporting and fomenting terrorism.  Whether or not these factors have anything to do with the naval disaster, we do not know, but we do know this incident (May 10, 2020) is the second mishap involving Iranian firing of missiles this year, the previous incident involving the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet with anti-aircraft missiles in January of 2020, killing all aboard.

The accidentally targeted ship, called the Konorak, is reported to be a “logistics ship” that is armed with anti-ship missiles and 20mm rapid fire cannons.  The Konorak is (or was!) 167 feet long, with a beam of 33 feet, and displaces 660 tons.  Capable of 25 knots top speed, she was built in the Netherlands for Iran, entering service in 1988.  In 2018 she underwent an overhaul.  The Konorak normally has a mission of performing patrols and laying mines and has a crew of about 40 men.  While refusing to provide details of the incident, the Iranian government released a photo of the ship at dock to “prove” the small ship was not sunk, as some have reported.  Some news reports indicated the errant missile was an anti-ship missile fired by the Iranian frigate, Jamaran, with a radar lock on the Konorak instead of the intended target.  As is typical with military blunders, do not expect honesty and truth coming from the Iranian government about this incident.

Although there seems to be no involvement by the United States in this tragic incident, in recent weeks the Iranian Navy has been harassing US Navy vessels in the area, resulting in a threat from President Trump, who ordered the US Navy to “shoot down” any Iranian ships that dangerously harass US vessels. (The US has a troubled history with Iran.)

Question for students (and subscribers): Should the US aggressively sink Iranian ships and boats that harass US vessels in the Persian Gulf region?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Blackmore, David. Blunders and Disasters at Sea.  Pen & Sword Maritime, 2004.

Regan, Geoffrey. Great Naval Blunders. Andre Deutsch, 2012.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Mohammad Sadegh Heydari of Moudge-class frigate Jamaran, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.  This file, which was originally posted to http://www.ypa.ir/media/k2/galleries/359/06.jpg, was reviewed on  by reviewer Czar, who confirmed that it was available there under the stated license on that date.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.