Friday, February 17, 2012

#52) Iran - Tensions, Rescue, and Librascope History

Ray Hand recently submitted this "Sea Story" relating current international events with some interesting Librascope history. The story is also on-line at:

Iran - Tensions, Rescue, and Librascope History
Ray Hand
Current tensions with Iran, contrasted with a recent incident where a U.S. Navy destroyer rescued an Iranian fishing boat from pirates, reminded me of some Librascope history from the late 1970’s.  The historical connection came to mind because the destroyer involved in the rescue was named the USS Kidd (DDG-100).
The Shah of Iran, before he was exiled in January 1979, purchased four DDG (guided missile destroyers) from the United States.  He spared no expense in the building and outfitting of the ships.  In general, they were better outfitted than the Spruance Class DDG's in service at the time in our Navy. The first of the four ships was to be named "Kouroush" but, because of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the Shah’s exile, the ships were never delivered.  The ships were retained by the U.S. Navy and the first ship was renamed USS Kidd (DDG 993).  DDG 993 has since been decommissioned and the name reused for the DDG 100.  It seemed ironic to me that a ship named Kidd would just happen to be the one to assist the Iranian fisherman.
As for the rescue during tense times in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, anyone who has spent extensive time at sea knows that, except during hostilities, there is a kinship between sailors that compels them to come to each others rescue in times of need.  We do not torpedo life boats.  But, on with the story.
The USS Kidd (DDG-993) was fitted with a Mk 116 ASROC (Anti-Submarine Rocket) system that fired rocket assisted anti-submarine torpedoes.  The Mk 116 was designed, manufactured, installed, and maintained by Librascope.  At the time of the Shah’s exile and the Iranian Revolution, several Iranian Naval Officers were stationed at Librascope and were being trained on the operation and maintenance of the system.  As I remember, one of the officers asked for asylum in the United States and the others returned to Iran.
During this same time period, Librascope was also engaged in marketing submarine fire control technology to the Iranians.  Dr. Walt Picker, who was later to become President of Librascope, was Vice President of Marketing.  I e-mailed Dr. Picker about the connection I had made between the rescue and Librascope history, and he replied with a story about what he described as his interesting experiences with the Iranian submarine marketing effort.  I thanked him for writing the story and asked his permission to include it in this article.  He gave me his permission, so I conclude this story with his words.
Hi Ray,
We never got very far with the Iranians.  The Iranian Navy Captain in charge of the project clearly was not favorable.  They had a proposal from us but it seemed to me that he already had made a deal and it wasn't in his best interest to change it.

My recollection is that I only made three or four trips to Iran.  We were coordinating with the MK48 supplier to get the Iranians to give us a contract to insert the MK48 capability into their FCS.

On my last visit in December 1978, I was there with Pool.  I took him there to familiarize him with the situation - since I was quitting at the end of the year for a new position in Texas and Ernie was my replacement.

It was one of my more interesting trips.  There was a frantic mob at the airport and we were unable to get our luggage for a couple of days. We arrived just after martial law had been declared so we only had an hour to get to our hotel.  People had been told to get off the streets or be shot.  The army was setting machine guns up on corners, fires were burning from rioters, and our hotel had its big lobby windows smashed.  Within a few minutes, there was no traffic on the streets and no pedestrians either.  When we went to visit our agent the next day, there was a tank parked on the sidewalk in front of the office.  And so forth.

It became very clear that there never was going to be a program for the Iranian submarines since [with the regime being forced out by the Islamists] many of the senior officers were unsure about their future. It was hard to get their attention when they were concerned about their personal survival.

I had a meeting with the senior U.S. military guy [an Air Force General].  Hard to get his attention also.

Toward the end of the week, the Parliament was debating on TV whether to shoot the Shah or let him emigrate.  He was lucky.  They ended up kicking him out. 

After a week of chaos, we finally managed to get a flight to Germany and were glad to get out of there.  Ernie had never been in Iran before - he was somewhat shocked by it all.

It was a good example of "may you live in interesting times."


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