By the 1990's, the Islamic Republic of Iran made the conscious decision and effort to locally build as many of her own ships as possible, reducing their reliance on foreign suppliers. However, in the 1970's, her shipbuilding facilities were incapable of constructing large vessels which proved problematic considering the Iranian Navy managed a growing number of warships that required refueling at sea - British- and American-built destroyers and British- and Iranian-made frigates and corvettes. UK shipbuilder Swan Hunter was charged by the Iranian government to construct a replenishment ship with a displacement of 33,014 tons under the name of "Kharg" to represent a single vessel of the class. The Ol-class, an ex-Royal Navy fleet auxiliary tanker, was selected for the modification and work began in 1976. The Ol-class ships were considered "fast fleet tankers" able to keep up with modern warships and built through a class of four vessels themselves. These ships were used to provide fuel, food, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels sailing across all seven oceans of the world - so they provided a very good, proven design for the Iranian Navy to benefit from. The vessel sported a running length of 648 feet with a beam of 84 feet and drew 34 feet of water. Her purpose, as built during 1976-1977, was as an oil tanker refueling ship. Completed in 1978, the Kharg was not delivered to Iran until 1984 - the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 forever changed the Iranian state and reduced political and military access to the West considerably.
The IRIN Kharg was powered by 2 x Westinghouse-geared steam turbines rated at 26,870 shaft horsepower each utilizing twin boilers with a single shaft. Iran crewed the vessel with approximately 250 men including aircrews for the stationed helicopter. The vessel managed a helicopter deck built onto the stern with two enclosed hangers capable of housing one Sea King-type naval helicopter each (a third could be kept on the open helo deck). In 1993, Kharg was sent to the Iranian port of Bandar-e-Abbasback for a refit. Since the Iranian government does not publish warship information, it is believed that the refit was to add dry storage compartments within the interior of the ship. These areas could be for troops, munitions, ship stores or naval mines. The vessel was armed with self-defense-minded equipment including 1 x 76mm/62 OTO Melara cannon (Italian) and up to 4 x 23mm/80 cannons in twin-mountings (Soviet-era).
During a 2011 deployment, two Iranian vessels - a destroyer and the Kharg supply ship - sailed past the coast of Israel and docked at the port of Latakia in Syria before returning to Iran via the Red Sea. In February of 2011, the Kharg went on patrol alongside the IRIN Alvand frigate. The Iranian navy Chief Admiral Habibollah Sayari proclaimed it "a message of peace and friendship" and these ships demonstrated "the might" of Iran. However, Israel immediately put its Navy on alert. The deployment raised tensions with Israel at a dangerous time with speculation growing that air strikes were being prepared against Iran's nuclear program.
In 2012, Iran resorted to keeping her ships closer to home waters as the Shahid Qandi, a destroyer, and its supply vessel, the Kharg, passed through the Suez Canal en route to Syria in a move that continued to raise tensions with Israel. This was only the second time Iranian ships have entered the Mediterranean since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Kharg then supported the Iranian frigate Alvand and steamed through the canal and set anchor in the principal port city of Latakia in Syria. The nature of Iran's nuclear program have led to tightening of sanctions of Iran's oil exports, prompting Iran to threaten to close the strait - the world's most important chokepoint for oil transport in the world. Russia, having a base in Tartous, has close relations with Iran and has, at every turn, opposed military action against both Iran and Syria.
As of late February 2012, Kharg was stationed in the Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden as a supply ship for the Iranian Navy.
June 2021 - It was reported that IRIN Kharg caught fire and sank near the Iranian port of Jask. No official cause for the fire has been revealed by authorities. The loss of Kharg is the largest maritime disaster for the country to date.
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