Iran claims success for new 'Iranian Iron Dome' air defense system - analysis

The publication of details about the system illustrates that Iran is trying to increase the types of systems it can employ in air defense.

Iran holds military drills as tensions rise with US (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran holds military drills as tensions rise with US
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Iran has claimed new success in its integrated air defense network. A drill claimed that a new air defense system has been unveiled by the Islamic Republic.

The drill was named Sky Defenders Velayat 1400 and took place recently, according to reports. In this case, the system confronted various threats and supposedly intercepted them.  

According to Fars News in Iran, Brig.-Gen. Amir Qader Rahimzadeh, Commander of the National Air Defense Base, announced the news that a “strong and multi-layered defense against cruise missile attack is one of the goals of the joint specialized air defense exercise of the 1400th Province [Velayat] Sky Defenders.” 

Images of a new air defense system were published for the first time. “Due to the different features of this system with other missile air defense systems in the country, the official information of this new system has not been published yet,” said the reports.  

Tasnim News went much further in looking at aspects of the system. It notes that the system has four launch canisters and can carry eight or 12 missiles. This would make it similar in some ways to Iron Dome, but it can also be compared to South Africa’s Umkhonto missile system and its truck-mounted version, built by Denel Dynamics.

Iran has in the past tried to copy South African drones as well. “In this regard, each unit of the system achieves high mobility and high stability in combat environments with relative independence from the secondary vehicle carrying the radar,” says Tasnim. 

The report says the system has 360° radar coverage and the missiles are launched vertically. This would mean it could simultaneously engage several targets. “Due to the need for high accuracy to accurately track targets, these radars are likely to operate in the X-band,” the report says.

“Deployment of radar on the launcher vehicle leads to the formation of a single unit called the TELAR (Transporter Erector Launcher And Radar), which makes it very difficult to disrupt radar and saturate it with electronic warfare due to the scattering of the radars in the combat environment.” 

Iran air defenders have been critiqued in the past because they shot down a civilian airliner in January 2020. Iran tried in 2018 to send its 3rd Khordad system to Syria. It used the same system to shoot down an American Global Hawk drone in 2019.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen near a ''3 Khordad'' system which is said to had been used to shoot down a U.S. military drone, according to news agency Fars, in this undated handout picture (credit: FARS NEWS/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen near a ''3 Khordad'' system which is said to had been used to shoot down a U.S. military drone, according to news agency Fars, in this undated handout picture (credit: FARS NEWS/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

“From the video released from the new missile air defense system, it is evident that the control room of the system is also located under the radars. This method means maximum compression of system components,” says the Tasnim report. “The same type of aggregation of system components has been observed in several types of advanced Russian mid-range air defense systems operating, which results in much higher mobility of air defense fire.”

This means that Iran may have learned from the Pantsir and other Russian systems. Russia has deployed the Pantsir to Syria. 

The publication of details about the system illustrates that Iran is trying to increase the types of systems it can employ in air defense. It is trying to make a series of indigenous systems that replicate the ones Russia and other countries have. For instance, Iran developed the Bavar 373, which was rolled out in 2019 and is said to resemble the capabilities of the Russian S-300 system.

Syrian air defense has often failed to stop airstrikes in recent years. Syrian air defense missiles have also been fired wildly, falling in Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and most recently in Iraq. Iran likely wants to put in place a more comprehensive air defense network and not replicate the failures of Syria – and Tehran could one day try to deploy these systems to its proxies and allies in Iraq, Syria and even Lebanon.