The Islamic Republic is seeking to improve its missile and drone capability to tap into the latest technology from Russia and China and learn how to get around the latest air-defense systems, according to Iranian military analysts who were cited in a long article published by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.
The interesting article was transparent in laying out where Tehran seeks to go next in its offensive military technology. Iran already has a plethora of drones and missiles and is seeking greater impact in the realm of space.
Tehran now says it wants to learn from the experience of history how missiles have defeated air defense. “It should be noted that maneuvering ballistic warheads are just one step away from Hypersonic Gliding Vehicles (HGVs), which are now the cutting edge of missile technology in warheads,” the report said.
“This type of projectile differs from maneuvering warheads only in design and flight path, and its speed varies from Mach 5 to 20 [3,836 mph-15,345 mph] depending on the design and opinion of the manufacturer,” it said. “Instead of gaining altitude, such as ballistic missiles, HGV projectiles travel at much lower altitudes with the possibility of frequent reorientation, and as a result, the early defense radars of the enemy defense have difficulty detecting them and may surprise the enemy missile defense complex.”
Iran’s interest here is in learning from Chinese military technology. It openly says the Chinese have moved in the direction of HGV projectiles; Iran likely wants the same weapons.
Tehran and Beijing recently signed a 25-year cooperation agreement. This may not involve missiles yet, but Iran could be seeking more technology from North Korea, China and Russia in the coming years.
Iran also says its rockets have improved maneuverability. It references the Qadr rocket and what it says is a detachable warhead on the Qiam and Sajil missiles.
“The new warhead has a higher height and volume in the lower conical part, which can be the location of a propellant,” the report said. “To compare the simple guided type of three-cone warheads with control wings… Despite the dimensional differences, the new warhead is designed to be compatible with existing missiles. As a result, all Qadr, Sajil and Qiam missiles will be able to be used effectively against targets protected by missile defense systems such as Patriot, Arrow and Aegis with the help of the new warhead.”
IRAN IS thus openly saying it seeks to get around Israel’s Arrow air-defense system. Israel has a multilayered air-defense system with Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome; it also has Patriot batteries. Israel and the US cooperate closely on these issues.
“The country’s missile scientists have overcome these problems only six years after the unveiling of [the] Emad [missile] and have taken a very important step toward increasing the impact of the country’s missile capability,” the report said.
“Missile defense systems have significant weaknesses due to their dependence on the same path prediction, which is even more acute than the problems of interference and saturation of their radars,” it said.
Iran cited the failure of Patriots to stop Iraqi Scud missiles in 1991 as an example. “In that system, due to the dependence of the accuracy of the radar calculations on the duration of the [missile’s flight], a small computational error” will cause a “cumulative effect... over time,” causing the radar “to err in predicting the next point of presence of the missile in the path and the inappropriate area,” the report said.
“Until now, Iranian missiles have relied on increasing maximum speed and decreasing geometric dimensions and radar reflection to overcome the enemy missile defense systems. Methods of reducing radar reflection or interfering with radars” is one challenge, it said. “There is always the possibility of being hit by warheads, especially at low speed.”
The report openly discussed the difficulties Iran has had and how it is overcoming the need for better missiles. This is obviously aimed at threatening Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.
“Prior to the unveiling of the Emad missile, the warheads of Iranian long-range missiles only reached the accuracy obtained from the navigation systems and the overall guidance and control of the missile, after separation from the missile body could no longer correct the path and increase accuracy,” the report said. It cited the Fateh family of missiles, “which were capable of being guided to the end of the route.”
It also discussed the detachable warhead on the Emad missile and increasing accuracy. “This capability was then extended to the Ghadr, Qayam [Qiam] and Khorramshahr family of missiles, and even the Shahab 2 missiles were not spared,” the report said.
WHAT IMPLICATIONS does this have?
“In recent years, long-range missiles have taken on anti-ship missions in addition to reaching a point-to-point range of 2,000 km.,” the report said. “This aspect of the missile capability guarantees the role of thwarting the enemy’s crude plans in attacking the borders of the Islamic homeland of Iran.”
The report discussed recent Iranian drills using kamikaze drones and missiles. The new Iranian strategy combines drone and missile threats.
“Our long-range missiles, including Sajil, Qadr and Emad, were also fired during the exercise,” the report said. “It should be noted that the number of missiles present at the scene of the operation was more than this, but their [lack of public use] caused suspicion.
“In an exercise, different units are used at different levels. Four of the at least seven missiles… were prepared for firing and were operatively used. Other missiles simply were trained and prepared for the targeting process with teams of new and old officers, while other launchers at the missile bases may have simply completed the preparation before entering the battlefield.”
The point the article was trying to make is that the decision not to test all the missiles was not due to failure. It is unclear if this is true.
Overall, the point of this latest report was to raise the curtain on Iran’s strategy. More missiles, more drones and better precision, combined with maneuvering missiles, precision-guided munitions and perhaps a decision to look into glide vehicles and new technologies with China or Russia, means that air defenders in the region will need to up their game against these increasingly dangerous Iranian threats.