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The Iraqi Navy and Marines are the smallest of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense armed forces. With only 68 kilometers (43 statute miles) of coastline and two oil terminals, Iraq does not require a large naval force. However, what Iraq has now and what is on order is insufficient for the duties assigned.
The Iraqi Navy has one Saettia class Patrol Ship, five Preditor class Patrol Boats, 26 Defender class small Patrol Boats, and 24 Fast Attack Boats (FAB). The 50 Defenders and FABs are used by the two Marine battalions.
The Iraqi Navy is receiving three more Saettia class Patrol Ships at a rate of one vessel per quarter. All four Patrol Ships are to be operational and in Iraq by the summer of 2010. Also, there are 15 35-meter Patrol Boats are on order. The first four are to be delivered by the end of 2010 and the remaining 11 in 2011. This is a replacement order for 15 Malaysian built Patrol Boats that were to be delivered by 2011. The Malaysian order was cancelled due to inability to deliver.
The Iraqi Navy’s major units are the 1st (Patrol Boat) Squadron, 1st Marine Commando Battalion, and 2nd Marine Security Battalion. The Navy plans to form three more Patrol Boat Squadrons (1 Patrol Ship/5 Patrol Boats each) and an auxiliary support squadron. The replacement order for two auxiliary ships has not been reported.
The 1st Marine Commando Battalion is the primary security for the two offshore oil terminals and performs the ship boarding and searches. The 2nd Marine Battalion is employed in port security at Umm Qasr and Az Zubayr. The Iraqi Marine battalions are currently cross training in missions. To support this expanded capability, the Iraqi Navy will probably purchase additional small Patrol Boats or Fast Attack Boats.
What follows is speculation.
There have been no reports of plans to buy missile armed vessels, dedicated aviation support to the Navy, or of coastal defense. There are also no reports that the Marines are to further expand. However, the 2nd Marine Battalion was formed with no prior public notice.
The Iraqi Navy will probably acquire a missile boat squadron. There are several possibilities but, Italy, France, China, and Germany are the most likely sources.
The Iraqi Air Force will probably assign a dedicated Naval Aviation Support Squadron. The aircraft will probably be helicopters for search and rescue, Marine support, and attack.
The Iraqi Marines will probably expand to two, possibly three brigades, a Naval Division.
- One brigade would be for the platform security and vessel boarding search and seizure.
- One brigade would be for port security and coastal defense.
- It is possible a third brigade would be formed and the coastal defense duties separated from the port security role.
Another possible Iraqi Marine role would be marsh operations. The former Iraqi regime had three Marine Brigades, two in the Navy and one in the Republican Guard Special Forces Division. Two of those Marine Brigades were employed as spearhead units in the counter-attacks that retook the Manjoon Islands in the Hawar Marsh during 1988.
The Iraqi Navy is expanding and will probably be independent by 2015, maybe sooner.