Operation Kaman 99 (Operation Bow 99) was an operation launched by the Islamic Republic of Iran 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.
22 September 1980, Iraq launched massive air strikes on strategic locations in Iran.
At 1:45 pm local time, 6 Iraqi MiG-23 Floggers bombed an Iranian airbase 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 airbases in Iran.
However, having learned from the Six-Day War, Iran had built concrete bunkers where most of its combat aircraft were stored, thus the Iraqis succeed mainly in cratering a few Iranian runways, 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.
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. After refueling in mid-air the Phantoms reached the Iraqi capital Baghdad, where[verification needed] they attacked al-Rashid, al-Habbaniyah and al-Kut airbases. Meanwhile, eight more F-4s took off from Tehran and launched a second attack on the al-Rashid airbase.
Iran launched 58 F-5E Tiger IIs from Tabriz, which were sent to attack Mosul Airbase. After the attack on Mosul Airbase, 50 F-5Es attacked Nasiriyah Airbase, which was heavily damaged.
As all 146 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.
Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military were dealt a heavy blow when Iranian Air Force vulnerabilities failed to materialize. All Iraqi airbases near Iran were out of order for months and, according to Iran, Iraq's aerial efficacy was reduced by 55%. This allowed Iranians to regroup and prepare for the upcoming Iraqi invasion. However, Iraqis would advance deep into Khuzestan and it would take the Iranians another 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 more than one million people would die.