– Sachin Kamath
A Case Study on the Ballistic missile Capabilities of Iran.
All those who started their own ballistic missile programme received help from only two states primarily i.e. either North Korea or Soviet satellite states. For example, Egypt provided the first Scud-B to North Korea and Libya provided the first Scud-B to Iran. Later Iran purchased their Scud-B stocks from North Korea and then Iran even purchased the locally upgraded variant of the Scud-B from North Korea. Pakistan later purchased the North Korean ballistic missiles in response to the Indian Ballistic missile program.
Needless to say, the North Korean ballistic missiles only have deterrence value since their accuracy is notoriously low, but the only nation that actually went ahead and improved the accuracy of the missiles was Iran. Iran finally started local production of ballistic missiles and managed to produce Fateh-110A which was the first step in having its own ballistic missile program, however, the accuracy was still not enough. Iran further improved the design and came up with Fateh-313 which was much more accurate than Fateh-110A.
Finally, Iran produced the final upgrade to Fateh-313 and created the Zolfaghar which is a heavily upgraded derivative of the Fateh-110A. Zolfaghar has impressive accuracy and can even be used as a substitute for Airstrikes. Zolfaghar has even been used in the attack on the American airbase in Iraq to retaliate for the assassination of Soleimani in Jan 2020 and the satellite pictures show the stunning accuracy of the Zolfaghar. Most missiles hit their mark with single-digit CEP and 700 Kg warhead was more than enough for targets. This was unprecedented as the west had simply dismissed the Iranian ballistic missile technology.
Later Iran even went a step further and came up with IIR guided Fateh Mobin which can home in on IR emissions of Ships. This is most likely going to be used for the anti-shipping role since this is the best bet for Iran against the US Carrier Strike Group.
Iran did not stop here, instead continued working further and created a new ballistic missile named Emad, which is an MRBM. Test results showed that Emad is accurate too. Besides, that missile has a baby bottlenose to reduce the speed during re-entry to allow for increased accuracy. Some Iranian ballistic missiles also sport fins on the RV just like Indian Agni-2 which could even hint at MaRV which can probably be the answer to the BMD deployed by Gulf rivals of Iran.
The final development came with the unveiling of the Sejjil ballistic missile which is an indigenously built MRBM. This missile has a range of 2000 km but poor accuracy, still not as poor as North Korean missiles.
Other than that, when Israel, Saudi and Jordan all started deploying their own BMD, Iran turned to cruise missiles for countering them. The first true long-range cruise missile of Iran was the Al-Soumar class cruise missile which was nothing more than a copy of the Soviet Kh-55, which it has illegally acquired from Ukraine. The Kh-55 is a long-range cruise missile and its range is believed to be 2000+ kms and this is no exaggeration. This implies that the Al-Soumar also may have a similar range.
The Iranians later improved the guidance system of the missile and came up with the Hoveizeh, which is the pinnacle of the Iranian arms industry and has even been acknowledged by Israel as the greatest threat to the region. Hoveizeh has a range slightly greater than 1000 kms but it’s the flight profile of that missile that is interesting. It has TERCOM guidance and it is capable of Terrain Hugging to evade detection. In addition, it is reported to have RCS reduction features, which further helps it to evade detection.
Now many may simply dismiss these statements, but the proof of Iranian technological advancements came after 2017, when the Iranian proxies in Yemen, The Ansar Allah(Houthis) began using cruise missiles to target Saudi Arabia. Almost all strikes done using cruise missiles were successful despite Saudis having the most advanced Air Defence system in the region second only after Israel.
The greatest proof of Iranian Cruise missile technological advancement came in Sept 2019, when Iranian Cruise missiles and drones were used in the strike on Abqaiq Oil terminal, which shut it down and disrupted the global oil supply momentarily sending oil prices shooting up. Not a single cruise missile was intercepted that day. This was particularly devastating for the west as it showed to the world that Iran had succeeded in developing a perfect counter to one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world and it finally made the west sit up and take notice of the advancements made by the Iranians.
The Iranians then made several more variants of the same missile and gave it different designations. It is unclear if they all are just different designations of the same missile or if they are different missiles altogether. However, what is clear is that the Iranian cruise missiles are now the most advanced in the entire region and nobody in the entire gulf (Not even Israel) has anything to counter it and nobody has the cruise missiles of that range and tech to even deter Iran.