Khark Island

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Khark Island (also called Kharg Island) is an island in the northern part of the Persian Gulf, located 16 miles off the coast of Iran. It is the site of Iran's primary oil export terminal in the Gulf, and as such was the target of several bombing attacks during the Iran-Iraq War.

Khark Island has a relatively large supply of fresh water, allowing it maintain a high level of bio-diversity, including herds of gazelles.[1] Archeological evidence suggests that the island has supported human settlements since 2500 BC, and efforts are currently underway to document all the historical sites on the island.[2]

Because of its economic importance, Khark was a target of Iraqi attacks throughout the Iran-Iraq War. The first air raid to hit the Khark facilities was on December 24, 1980, and Iraq later declared the waters around Khark an exclusion zone and that any ship approaching or leaving Khark would be attacked. Although Iranian air defenses, including a HAWK SAM site on the island itself, made the EZ difficult to enforce, several tankers from various nations were successfully attacked.[3] Between August and December 1985, Khark was the focus of an intensive aerial campaign. The nearly sixty air attacks that took place over the four-month period caused only limited damage, but forced Iran to redeploy military assets in response.[4]

The most destructive attack took place near the end of the war, on March 19, 1988. The first wave of aircraft, four Tupolev Tu-22 “Blinders” and six Mirage F1s, attacked shortly after 0100 hours. Two of the Mirages hit and badly damaged the tanker Kyrnicos with Exocet missiles, and the Tupolevs destroyed the supertankers Ava’i and Sanadaj with unguided bombs, killing 48 men. The second wave, consisting of two Tu-22s and twelve Iraqi fighter-bombers, arrived at 0930 hours, and were met by two Iranian F-14 Tomcats and two F-4 Phantoms. The defending fighters downed both Blinders and a MiG-25, while the HAWK battery at Khark shot down a MiG-23 and a Sukhoi Su-22.[5]


  1. Visible Earth: Kharg Island, Iran
  2. Archeologists to Excavate the Island of Khark
  3. Tanker War, 1980-1986
  4. The Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988, by Efraim Karsh, Osprey Publishing, 2002
  5. Iranian F-14 Tomcat Units in Combat, by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop

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