Operations Prime Chance and Earnest Will were initiated in the late 1980's specifically to provide protection for civilian and military vessels transiting the Persian Gulf. For these operations, the U.S. Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and the U.S. Navy SEALs.
Prime Chance was primarily a TF 160 mission, requiring extremely low level flying at night and for prolonged periods. Operation PRIME CHANCE resulted in the first successful night combat engagement that neutralized an enemy threat while using aviator night vision goggles and forward looking infrared devices. The Night Stalker presence deterred numerous attacks on international shipping and slowed the mine-laying process.
Operation Prime Chance continues today, with an armed rapid-response capability provided by the 4th Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry flying the OH-58D(I).
Operation Earnest Will was a much larger operation involving the conventional military. It did, however, employ a significant contingent from the special operations community. This involved U.S. Navy SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Task Units (Atlantic and Pacific), and the 160th SOAR. Also joining the group was TF117, a regular army aviation unit flying AH-58 Warrior helos with then-classified mast-mounted devices capable of spotting small targets operating in any weather conditions. The SEALs were based on two massive barges, names Hercules and Wimbrown 7 and rotated personnel on three to four month deployments. Missions included underway ship boardings, search and rescue, and surveillance.
A Force Recon Platoon was deployed in the gulf aboard various "Gator Freighters", such as the USS Trenton. They boarded and secured an Iranian Oil Platform during Operation Praying Mantis, 18 April 1988. A Force Platoon also pulled the Iranian survivors out of the water after the Iranian mine layer Ajar was attacked by US Army Helos. The SEALs secured the ship.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment delivers a Navy SEAL boarding team to a civilian tanker in the Persian Gulf.
In response to an Iranian missile attack on a reflagged Kuwaiti super tanker, shelling from USS Hoel (DDG-13) and three other U.S. destroyers set fire to Iranian command and control platforms in the Arabian Gulf on 19 October 1987.
Anybody ever read about the time where the AH-6 pilot ran out of ammunition and had to fire out the side with his pistol while swooping down towards a gunboat? I forgot where I read it, maybe Shadow Warriors or Chariots of the Damned.