A starboard quarter view of the Iranian frigate ITS Rostam (DE-73), later renamed IS Sabalan (F-73).
A starboard quarter view of the Iranian frigate ITS Rostam (DE-73), later renamed IS Sabalan (F-73).
Name: IIS Rostam
Namesake: Rostam
Ordered: 1960
Yard number:
  • 190 (High Walker)[1]
  • 1079 (Barrow)
Launched: 4 March 1969[1]
Commissioned: 26 May 1972[1]
Renamed: Sabalan, 1985[1]
Namesake: Sabalan mountain
Homeport: Bandar-Abbas
Status: in active service
General characteristics
Class and type: Alvand-class frigate
Displacement: 1,100 tons (1,540 tons full load)
Length: 94.5 m (310 ft)
Beam: 11.07 m (36.3 ft)
Draught: 3.25 m (10.7 ft)
  • 2 shafts, 2 Paxman Ventura cruising diesels, 3,800 bhp (2,830 kW), 17 knots (31 km/h)
  • 2 Rolls Royce Olympus TM2 boost gas turbines, 46,000 shp (34,300 kW), 39 knots (72 km/h)
Speed: 39 knots (72 km/h) max
Range: 5,000 nmi (9,000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 125-146
  • 4 × C-802 anti-ship missiles
  • 1 × 4.5 inch (114 mm) Mark 8 gun
  • 1 × twin 35 mm AAA, 2 x single 20 mm AAA
  • 2 × 81 mm mortars, 2 × 0.50cal machine guns, 1 x Limbo ASW mortar, 2 x triple 12.75 in torpedo tubes

Sabalan (in Persian سبلان) is a British-made Vosper Mark V-class (or Alvand-class) frigate in the Iranian Navy.

Commissioned in June 1972 as part of a four-ship order, the Sabalan was originally named IIS Rostam, after Rostam, a legendary hero in the Shahnameh. It was renamed after the Islamic revolution after Sabalan, the Iranian mountain.

Service history

During the Iran–Iraq War, the warship became infamous for attacks against the crews of unarmed and often neutral tankers and other merchant ships. Before these attacks, Sabalan's captain would often board the ships and pretend to carry out a friendly inspection, sometimes even dining with the ship's master. Then he would open fire on the ship, sometimes aiming at the ship's bridge and living spaces. Often, the captain would radio his victims "Have a nice day" as Sabalan departed. These actions earned the captain the nickname "Captain Nasty".[2]

Following the spillover of the conflict onto the Persian Gulf, the United States deployed warships in 1987 and 1988 to protect reflagged Kuwaiti shipping in the Persian Gulf. During the convoy operations, dubbed Operation Earnest Will, an Iranian mine severely damaged a U.S. frigate. U.S. forces mounted a one-day retaliation called Operation Praying Mantis. The operation's objectives were to destroy two Iranian oil platforms used for drilling and attack coordination and one unspecified Iranian warship.

On the morning of April 18, 1988, the oil platforms were knocked out. The U.S. forces then turned to look for Iranian frigates in the Strait of Hormuz, which joins the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. Sabalan's sister frigate Sahand was identified by aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and drawn into a fatal engagement. Another group of A-6 Intruders was sent to the reported location of Sabalan in the strait, where the Sabalan fired at the A-6s at 6.17 p.m. (Gulf time).

At 6.18 p.m., an A-6 dropped a Mk-82 500 pound laser-guided bomb, which left Sabalan paralyzed and on fire. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., and U.S. Central Command head Gen. George B. Crist monitored the situation. After discussion, the men decided to spare the moribund Sabalan, perhaps to prevent further escalation.

Iranian forces towed the damaged ship to the port of Bandar Abbas, and it was eventually repaired and returned to service.[3]

In January 2014 Sabalan and Kharg, a supply ship capable of carrying helicopters, set off from Bandar Abbas, on a reported three-month mission to the United States maritime borders. The mission was described by an Iranian admiral as a response to the ongoing presence of the United States Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, across the Persian Gulf.[4] However, the trip to the Atlantic Ocean never happened and was called off in April 2014.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Rostam (6126628)". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  2. ^ Lee Wise, Harold: Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf, 1987-1988
  3. ^ L. Symonds, Craig: Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History
  4. ^ Rhett Miller, Joshua (11 February 2014). "Sinking feeling: Iranian Navy sends message with US-bound 'rust buckets'". Fox News. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  5. ^ "Iran cancels plan to have warships approach US borders in Atlantic". The Guardian. 13 April 2014. Group-29, which consists of the Sabalan destroyer, Khark logistics carrier and two helicopters … will not go to the Atlantic Ocean and will return home within days.


  • "Carlucci Called Off Attack On Wounded Iranian Ship". The Washington Post. 21 April 1988. pp. A26.
  • Cushman Jr., John H. (27 April 1988). "Washington Talk: The Armed Services; Navy Fires a Volley Of Self-Congratulation". The New York Times. p. 22.
  • Greeley, Jr., Brendan M. (25 April 1988). "U.S. Sinks Iranian Frigate In Persian Gulf Action". Aviation Week & Space Technology: 20.
  • "How to waste a navy", The Economist, p. 41, 23 April 1988
  • Langston, Bud; Bringle, Don (1989). "The Air View: Operation Praying Mantis". Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute. 66: 54–65.
  • Peniston, Bradley (2006). No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-661-5. Archived from the original on 12 July 2006. Retrieved 4 April 2006. (Describes Sabalan actions in 1988 from the viewpoint of a U.S. frigate operating in the Gulf.)
  • Richey, Warren (10 February 1988). "Aboard HMS Battleaxe in the Gulf". The Christian Science Monitor: 1.
  • "Selected Weapons and Vessels Used Yesterday in the Gulf". The Washington Post. 19 April 1988. pp. A22.
  • Wise, Harold Lee (2007). Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf 1987-88. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-970-3.

External links

  • Photos of Sabalan and Operation Praying Mantis
  • Photo of Sabalan-2007