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These Advanced Weapons Are Made In Iran

October 26, 2018

Via Wikimedia Commons.

This year saw the US confront its geopolitical adversaries like never before. As Washington, DC initiated a trade war against China, took on a more conciliatory approach with North Korea, and breathed down Russia’s neck everywhere, it has shown the Islamic Republic of Iran no quarter. When President Trump announced his administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in May it was quickly followed by crippling sanctions designed to foment domestic unrest against the current leadership in Tehran

Other jabs at the arch foe in the Middle East span multibillion dollar arms deals with Gulf states and giving ultimatums to Iranian forces in Syria to leave or else. Are these the first steps to another war? If only the anti-Iran coalition knew how big a punch their adversary is packing, then a lasting peace might be on the table. So here are eight locally made weapons that will prove a nightmare for anyone planning to attack Iran today.

BAVAR-373 Air Defense System

Often described by Iranian propaganda as an “indigenous version” of the S-300PMU2 bought from Russia, the Bavar-373 actually shares little in common with its foreign counterpart. Each launch vehicle is armed with two Sayyad 3 missiles that were reverse engineered from US-made RIM-66 SAMs found on the Iranian navy’s old frigates. The Bavar-373’s are meant to reinforce and then replace the existing batteries of Chinese HQ-2 and Russian S-200VE long-range SAMs guarding sensitive locations inside Iran.

Although still on the verge of low rate production, the Bavars aren’t to be trifled with given their maximum range exceeding 120 kilometers and the ability to strike targets at an altitude of 27 km. When networked together with the Sayyad 2 and the Raad medium-range SAMs, Iran is the only country in the Middle East–aside from Israel–to have established its own air defense grid with homegrown air defenses.

DELAVIYEH Anti-Tank Missile

If the Delaviyeh looks familiar it’s because Iran acquired a license from Russia to manufacture 9K133 Kornet ATGMs in the late 1990s. The Delaviyeh is the Iranian military’s most lethal anti-tank weapon aside from the vast quantities of guided and unguided anti-tank weapons they already have. Why is the Delaviyeh so troublesome? Because it’s portable (as seen above), scary accurate thanks to laser beam guidance, and its 152mm missile can penetrate the armor of any second and third-generation main battle tank, unless they have reactive panels and other countermeasures, of course.

Iranian Kornet missiles are armed with either high explosive or thermobaric warheads and have a range exceeding 5 km. They’re also found mounted on vehicles, either in quartet launchers or in singles like on the Artesh‘ BMP-2 IFVs as a replacement for the older Konkurs missiles on the turret.

FAJR 5 Rocket Artillery System

The last time (the 1980s) a hostile nation-state (Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) tried invading Iran the effort failed because Iranian geography and manpower proved tougher than expected. The next time the same is attempted, the aggressor will be at the mercy of endless rocket salvos rather than fanatical human waves. The Fajr 5 is the most powerful rocket artillery weapon in the Middle East today, being superior to both the HIMARS and the M270 MLRS, and is able to reach targets 75 km away. Only Turkey has managed to acquire the same capability with its Chinese-made T-300 large diameter rockets.

Although Israel can boast about its own EXTRA rockets, the Iranian Fajr 5 has an extended range version with a maximum range of 150 km. Oh, and don’t forget the scary as all fuck Zelzal family. (Range: 150-250 km!) How come Iran loves rockets so much? Blame North Korea for transferring the expertise for manufacturing 107mm, 122mm, 240mm, and 333mm rockets to their favorite customer.

KHALIJ FARS Anti-Ship Missile

For decades, the US Navy fantasized about going ape shit on Iran with a wave of preemptive strikes that will bring the ayatollahs to their knees. What planners in every branch of America’s military never considered are the careful preparations Tehran has made to discourage this particular war scenario. Between 2011 and 2013 the IRGC crafted a new anti-ship missile whose effective range covered the entire Persian Gulf. Iranian propaganda called it Khalij Fars, which translated to (surprise!) “Persian Gulf.”

The Khalij Fars and its sibling the Hormuz-2 (after the Gulf’s only choke point) join a selection of Chinese-made anti-ship missiles the IRGC have carefully built up for decades. What sets the Khalij Fars apart is it utilizes the same airframe as a Fateh short-range ballistic missile albeit with a new guidance system. That, and it’s easy to build in large numbers. Is it really supersonic, though?

Via Iranian media.

RAAD-2 Self-Propelled Howitzer

Since Iran used to be the US’ most important ally in the Middle East it built up a huge army on a line of credit guaranteed by oil revenues. That same army had an epic stockpile of artillery that included 105mm, 155mm, 175mm, and 203mm howitzers that really proved their worth during the terrible Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). When these same artillery weapons aged to irrelevance, Iran’s military-industrial sector rolled out a new self-propelled howitzer. Or howitzers. The Raad‘s consisted of 122mm and 155mm guns.

To replace its decrepit stock of US-made M109 howitzers, the Raad-2 combined the same 155mm/39 caliber main armament with a hull based on a Russian T-72 chassis. (Notice the wheels on it!) The result is the first successful locally designed self-propelled howitzer in the Middle East that matches its counterparts in NATO. How about when the IDF mounted a Soltam howitzer on an M4 Sherman? That doesn’t count.

Via Fars News/Wikimedia Commons.

SAEGEH UCAV

It’s beyond doubt Iranian attempts at producing an “indigenous” fighter jet are very lame, indeed. But the opposite applies to the unmanned aircraft controlled by the IRGC that rivals, and maybe surpasses, the capabilities of the world’s “drone powers.” Thanks to a combination of luck, persistence, and reverse engineering, Iran is the first country (that isn’t the USA) to have jet powered UCAVs at its disposal. The Saegheh or “Saeqeh” is recognized as a faithful clone of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel used by the US Air Force (USAF) for long-range intelligence gathering.

In 2011 a Sentinel launched from Afghanistan disappeared inside Iran and the missing drone was subsequently shown off to Iranian media. Then in October 2016 the IRGC unveiled a drone resembling the Sentinel but equipped for dropping ordnance. In February this year a Saegeh launched from an Iranian base in Palmyra, Syria, was shot down over Israel. Then on October 1 a flight of Saegeh’s attacked a town on the Syria-Iraq border that was previously targeted with ballistic missiles. So it can fly across countries and drop bombs on Iran’s enemies. How much more dangerous can it get?

Via Iranian media.

SHAHED 129 UCAV

It’s easy to dismiss the Shahed 129 as a half-baked attempt at copying the Predator B with its own poor alternatives for Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. Even if its performance characteristics lag behind its peers from China and Israel, however, the Shahed 129’s track record since it was first unveiled in 2012 is impressive enough. It has flown countless missions over Iraq, Syria, and the Persian Gulf. The fact that it can deliver a substantial payload and conduct surveillance for hours on end shows how far Iranian drone technology has gone.

Whatever its true capabilities in terms of endurance and range (can it really stay airborne for a whole day?), if the Shahed 129 keeps undergoing improvements until the 2020s it will pose a dire threat to US bases, facilities, warships, and most importantly, American men and women serving in the Middle East. The worst that can happen is if the Shahed 129 evolves to the point where its next variant is like the jet-powered Predator C Avenger and big enough for carrying long-range air-to-air missiles. That’s really messed up.

Via Iranian media.

SOUMAR Cruise Missile

When it was first shown to the public in 2015 nobody knew what to make of the Soumar. The defense ministry and the Revolutionary Guard bragged about its extreme range and precision without revealing too much either. Since it didn’t look like Iran’s other homegrown ballistic missiles like the Fatehs and the Shahabs, the Soumar’s origins were muddled at best. Was it Chinese? Russian? North Korean?

The best analysis of the Soumar indicates it shares the same design as the Soviet vintage Kh-55 anti-ship missile, although the Iranians seem to have modified its engine. As for how powerful it is, the Soumar is deemed “nuclear capable” but Iran doesn’t have nukes anyway. So what is it good for?

Whatever role the Soumar is appointed, it’s another inconvenient reason why fighting Iran over control of the Middle East is an awful, horrible, no-good idea. Its military industries have built up an arsenal strong enough to deter and then retaliate against any external threat. So if a regional leader is toying with the idea of preemptively attacking Iran soon, there’s a slim chance a few Soumars–whose range may or may not exceed 2,500 km–are at the ready for payback.

If not Soumars, then perhaps a few hundred ballistic missiles at least.

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