Operation Kaman 99

Operation Alborz (Persian: عملیات البرز),[4] more commonly known by the code-name Operation Kaman 99 (عملیات کمان 99),[5] was an operation launched by the Iranian Air Force in retaliation to Iraqi surprise aerial attacks on Iran the day before which marked the beginning of the 8-year-long Iran–Iraq War. Involving nearly 200 aircraft (of which more than 140 crossed into Iraq), it is considered the largest operation carried out by the IRIAF. The outcome was clearly successful, as the Iranians achieved Air superiority for the first years of the conflict.

Operation Kaman 99
Part of Iran–Iraq WarIraqi invasion of Iran
Operation Kaman 99 is located in Iraq
Operation Kaman 99
Operation Kaman 99
Operation Kaman 99
Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr
Baghdad Airport
Baghdad Airport
Operation Kaman 99
Locations hit in Iraq
Date23 September 1980
Result Iranian victory; Iran achieves air superiority against Iraq during the first years of the war.
 Iran  Iraq
Commanders and leaders
Iran Abulhassan Banisadr
Iran Col. Javad Fakoori
Iraq unknown
Units involved
Roundel of Iran.svg IRIAF Roundel of Iraq.svg IrAF

200 aircraft, of which 140 attacked Iraq:[1]

380+ air force personnel[1]
166-192 aircraft
Casualties and losses
67 aircraft shot down or 14% of its air force lost (Iraqi claim)[2]

11 airbases and other infrastructures were bombed
17% of its air force lost by early October (Iraqi claim)[3]

Aerial efficiency was reduced by 55% (Iranian claim)[citation needed]

Launched only 3 hours after the formal beginning of the war,[6] the main attack was formed by 140 to 148 Iranian fighter-bombers, plus 60 interceptors and tankers were involved in this operation, and at least 380 air force personnel were also involved, making this the most large-scale operation conducted by the Iranian Air Force.[1]

Kirkuk, Al-Rasheed, Nasiriya, Habbaniyah (including Tammuz), Shaiba, Kut, and Umm Qasr airbases, as well as Baghdad International Airport and Al-Muthanna Airport were bombed during the operation.[4][1] By the magnitude of the operation as well as by the number of aircraft participating in it, is considered one of the biggest air engagements ever to take place in the history of air warfare.[7]


On 22 and 23 September 1980, Iraq launched surprise air strikes on strategic locations in Iran employing a total of 166 to 192 fighter and bomber aircraft for a total of 250 sorties.

At 1:45 pm local time, 6 Iraqi MiG-23 Floggers bombed an Iranian Air Base near Ahvaz.

Half an hour later, Iraqi MiG-23s attacked Mehrabad Airport in Tehran. At the same time the Iraqis also bombed 8 other major Air Bases in Iran.

Radio Baghdad asks Iranian pilots to defect to Iraq in a message after this operation.[1]

However, having learned from the Six-Day War, Iran had built hardened aircraft shelters where most of its combat aircraft were stored, thus the Iraqis succeeded mainly in cratering Iranian runways (which were quickly repaired), without causing any significant damage to Iran's Air Force. Now the Iranian Air Force started preparing for a counter-attack which was to be launched the next day.

Two hours after this Iraqi attack, the Iranian air force conducted Operation Entegham (عملیات انتقام, "Revenge"), bombing Shaiba, Umm Qasr and Kut Air Bases in Iraq.[8] According to many pilots who took part in the operations, both the precedent Operation Entegham and this subsequent Operation Kaman 99, were planned before the Islamic Revolution by the previous Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) as a rapid response in case a conflict broke out with Iraq during the 1974-75 Shatt al-Arab clashes.[9]

The battleEdit

On 23 September 1980, Iran launched Operation Kaman 99 as 40 F-4 Phantoms, armed with Mark 82, Mark 83 and Mark 84 bombs and AGM-65 Maverick missiles, took off from Hamadan Air Base. After refueling in mid-air the Phantoms reached the Iraqi capital Baghdad, where[verification needed] they attacked al-Rasheed, Habbaniyah and Kut airbases. Meanwhile, eight more F-4s took off from Tehran's Mehrabad and launched a second attack on the al-Rasheed Air Base.

Iran launched 58 F-5E Tiger IIs from Tabriz Air Base, which were sent to attack Mosul Air Base. After the attack on Mosul Air Base, 50 F-5Es attacked Nasiriya Air Base, which was heavily damaged.

As all 148 Iranian F-4s and F-5s had been sent for a bombing raid on Iraq, 60 F-14 Tomcats were scrambled to defend Iranian airspace against a possible Iraqi retaliation. Iranian F-14s managed to down 2 Iraqi MiG-21s (1 MiG-21RF and 1 MiG-21MF) and 3 Iraqi MiG-23s (MiG-23MS), an Iranian F-5E also shot down an Iraqi Su-20 during the operation. Involved in the operation, was the entire IRIAF operational fleet at that time.[7]

Timeline of the air raids are as follows:[4][10]

The Iranian planes flew so low, that a billboard of Basra municipality got hooked on the tail of one of the Iranian F-4s, and was discovered upon landing at Bushehr Air Base.[11] In that sense, is known that as the Iranian aircraft were flying so low, that the power cables on the outskirts of the major Iraqi cities became a significant risk for the Iranian pilots if they were not cautious enough.[12]


Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military were dealt a heavy blow when Iranian Air Force vulnerabilities failed to materialize. All Iraqi Air Bases near Iran were rendered inoperable for months and, according to Iran, Iraq's aerial efficiency was reduced by 55%.[7] The Iranians on the other hand had taken heavy losses as well, as up to 67 aircraft had been shot down during the operation over Iraqi airspace by a combination of AAA, SAM, and Air defense fighters.[13] According to most observers, this is one of the biggest air battles in history.[7] This operation, allowed the Iranians to regroup and prepare for the upcoming Iraqi invasion. However, Iraqis would advance deep into Khuzestan and it would take the Iranians up to 2 years before they would finally expel the Iraqis from their territory and eventually enter Iraq. The War endured another 6 years, becoming the longest conventional war of the 20th century in which perhaps close to one million were maimed and killed.

In popular cultureEdit

  • Iranian book "140+8 Aircraft" (Persian: 8+140 فروندی), written by Brigadier General Ahmad Mehrnia[14]
  • Marjane Satrapi mentions the battle in a chapter of her autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis, where the father of her former classmate Pardisse Entezami was killed in action.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e http://www.aja.ir/portal/home/?news/65175/65178/84491/%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%84%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%AA-%DA%A9%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86-99-%D9%86%DB%8C%D8%B1%D9%88%DB%8C-%D9%87%D9%88%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AA%D8%B4
  2. ^ The role of airpower in the Iran-Iraq War. ISBN 9781428993303.
  3. ^ The role of airpower in the Iran-Iraq War. ISBN 9781428993303.
  4. ^ a b c http://www.hamshahrionline.ir/details/200435
  5. ^ "Kaman" (کمان, meaning "bow"), is a reference to the legendary figure Arash the Archer, and 99 is a reference to the 99 pages of the plan of the operation. See [1]
  6. ^ http://www.diyareaftab.ir/news/10063/print/
  7. ^ a b c d https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-largest-air-to-air-jet-battle-in-history
  8. ^ http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8606270054
  9. ^ https://www.reddit.com/r/hoggit/comments/a8lrd3/long_war_story_operation_kaman_99_the_biggest/
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ http://iricenter.org/news/the-memoirs-of-pilots-about-the-operation-kaman-99-and-some-other-air-operations/
  12. ^ "That's a low level strike: Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom - The Aviationist".
  13. ^ https://books.google.se/books?id=oCsNS_Z4iI4C&q=IQAF+bombing+half+of+iran&pg=PA76&redir_esc=y#v=snippet&q=IQAF%20bombing%20half%20of%20iran&f=false
  14. ^ http://www.khabaronline.ir/detail/69801/culture/book

External linksEdit

  • Tafażżolī, Ahmed, "Āraš i", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 266–267, archived from the original on 28 June 2009.