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Iran Unveiled A Juiced Up Ballistic Missile This Week

August 14, 2018

Via Press TV.

A fresh round of veiled threats between Iran and the US emerged a week after the re-imposition of economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic by President Trump. When punitive restrictions were put on Iranian entities on August 7 an exercise involving missiles reportedly took place near the Strait of Hormuz a few days later. This week Iran’s defense ministry showed off a new short-range ballistic missile it dubbed the “Fateh Mobin.”

It shouldn’t cause too much alarm in the West, however, since it represents the latest variant of the Fateh model that was developed in the 1990s from a large diameter battlefield rocket called the Zelzal. The different Fatehs are usually carried on pivoting launchers similar to those for Soviet SA-2/S-75 long-range anti-aircraft missiles.

But the news published by Iranian media about the Fateh Mobin is muddled at best. Described as a “pin-pointing” weapon system for “sea and land-based targets in all types of environments,” this latest iteration of the well-known missile should worry Gulf states that don’t have a credible anti-missile defense shield. Aside from its promotional copy, however, there’s little evidence vouching for the Fateh Mobin’s performance characteristics. The Fateh-110 that entered production from 2004 onward was an improvement over the Scud C battlefield rockets Iran learned to manufacture with North Korean assistance.

The Fateh-110’s reputation in the Middle East is a cause for dread though. Since 2013 strike aircraft from Israel have entered Syrian territory multiple times to neutralize targets where Tel Aviv believed Fateh-110 missiles and other Iranian ordnance were stored. The rationale for these attacks until now is preventing advanced weapons from being delivered to Hezbollah who can launch the Fatehs on Israel’s cities. But since the beginning of 2018 a continuous Israeli air campaign in Syria was justified to knock out permanent Iranian bases that, together with Hezbollah in Lebanon, threatened northern Israel on two fronts.

Each Fateh-110 has an estimated maximum range of 300 kilometers while its improved Zolfaqhar variant covers twice as much territory. In June 2017 a salvo of road mobile missiles were launched from Iran’s westernmost provinces to hit ISIS targets in eastern Syria–proof that Iran’s striking power isn’t confined to its antiquated air force. The much publicized retaliation was the largest offensive involving the IRGC’s missiles since the Scud barrage from 2001 against the People’s Mujaheddin Organization in Iraq.

Whatever the improvements on the Fateh Mobin that aren’t specified by Iranian media, these could be focused on three features. The guidance system was replaced for better accuracy; the warhead could’ve been changed as well; but the range may be the same as the Zolfaqhar at several hundred kilometers. If the Fateh Mobin’s existence proves anything, it’s the return to the pre-JCPOA detente where Tehran and its enemies are always advertising threats on a regular basis in lieu of diplomacy.

Readers may find Iran’s ballistic missile program confusing because of hyperbolic propaganda and the varying names applied to them. Putting it all in perspective, the arsenal controlled by the Revolutionary Guard or IRGC (not the Artesh) has grown to massive proportions since the 1980s, when the embattled Islamic Republic was still importing Scud B’s from North Korea and launching them at Iraq.

The reason why Iran is so fond of stockpiling missiles is for deterring any regional aggressor and to compensate for its weak air force. To understand the present state of its missile arsenal, a few basic facts must be laid down:

  • Iran doesn’t possess nuclear missiles. A salient feature of the confrontation between Iran and the West is a clandestine uranium enrichment program that can lead to assembling a nuclear warhead. But Iran’s ballistic missiles are for battlefield use and recognized as conventional weapons.
  • There are two main missile “families.” The Fateh Mobin unveiled this week belongs to the Fateh lineage that have limited ranges and are transported by flatbed trucks. The Fatehs are meant for destroying sensitive targets like airfields, the enemy command center, critical infrastructure, or a supply dump. The Shahab lineage, on the other hand, began with the Scud C and soon grew in size and range. The Shahabs are delivered by transporter erector launcher (TEL) trucks and the Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 are recognized as medium-range ballistic missiles.
  • But wait, there’s more! The deadliest missile Iran has looks like a hybrid of Soviet and Chinese technology called the Soumar that was unveiled in 2012. Much like the Tomahawk cruise missile, the ground launched Soumar travels vast distances some claim reaches 2,000 km. This puts North Africa and a few eastern Mediterranean countries within range. But its navigation system is a mystery and there are doubts it’s as accurate as advertised.
  • No ICBMS–yet. Unlike North Korea, Iran doesn’t have missiles able to target Western Europe countries or the US. If Tehran poured resources into a nuclear deterrent there are two models available for conversion, the Shahab-3 and the Sejjil, with each having a 2,000 km range. If either is enlarged to fit new engines that quintuple their range, an Iranian ICBM on a TEL cements the country’s status as a nuclear armed state.
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