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Pay Very Close Attention To This Iranian Missile

June 14, 2019

Via Iranian media.

With US-Iran ties falling apart the specter of a regional war looms anew over the Middle East. This makes it worthwhile to examine the possible military technology the belligerents may use against each other in an actual conflict. Since the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA framework a year ago, the Islamic Republic has regularly publicized its arsenal with the help of local media. Indeed, the past six months offered an abundance of proof that Iran’s ability to mass-produce advanced weapons is thriving despite sanctions.

In late January, for example, a rare exhibition for its domestic military equipment was held in Tehran. Among the shocking surprises were the complete selection of drones displayed at the indoor venue…and their weapons.

Laid on tables flanking a Shahed 129 MALE UAV were unnamed air-to-surface missiles–some claim these are the “Saded guided bombs”–that had both collapsible and fixed vertical stabilizers. Iran’s mysterious Defense Industries Organization (DIO) is known to produce a wide range of missiles, yet the types meant for armed drones often escape notice. This leaves a gap in public knowledge on what the Iranian military is capable of. The tabletop missiles at Eghtedar 40, by the way, are similar in appearance to the missiles for the US-made FGM-148 Javelin and the Israel-made Spike-LR/LR2/NLOS.

The FGM-148 Javelin is a portable infantry anti-tank missile launcher able to neutralize mobile and static targets from up to 2.5 kilometers away. Javelins are often issued to infantry squads who expect to fight against armor or fortifications–the top attack warhead excels at eliminating both. The missile of the FGM-148 Javelin, however, is small, just three feet in length with a diameter of 12.7cm or 127mm.

The Spike-LR is the largest among the Spike family of missiles manufactured by Israel’s Rafael. As its name indicates, it’s a long-range anti-armor missile with a record-setting maximum range over land of 5.5 km. The Spike-LR variants for helicopters and small naval vessels covers twice the distance. The even larger Spike-NLOS is billed as a precision guided missile for engaging targets at extreme distances, with coastal and naval defense among its suggested roles.

With the comparisons made, it’s now clear a DIO affiliate responsible for missile R&D has mastered non-line of sight technology. The air-launched munitions shown at Eghtedar 40 is ultimate proof Iran has the means to cover its ground forces, whether regular or proxy, with lethal strike options for any environment. If the “how” behind this breakthrough is unexplained a useful clue is found in another Iranian weapon system–the local copy of the BGM TOW anti-tank missile launcher called the Toophan.

Iranian ATGMs (copies of the Sagger, Konkurs, Kornet, and Dragon) have different munitions available to them and the Toophan is no exception. A “Toophan 3” is a top attack munition, its warhead exploding downward, with a range of 3.5 km in daytime. It’s possible this variant was modified further to be air-launched and given extreme range. To fulfill the role, an optoelectronic guidance unit was installed on its nose along with an improved booster. If this is so, the implications are worrisome. If the same type is repurposed for a new kind of missile, the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and the regular armed forces or Artesh could have a potent all-in-one munition.

A genuine NLOS missile with a range beyond 20 km marks a huge leap for Iran’s new generation of long endurance UAVs, giving them the reach for attacking the enemy’s critical infrastructure. When used on the IRGC’s fleet of fast attack craft in the Persian Gulf these portable missiles can swarm and then disable larger vessels. A ground-based variant is just as potent. A multiple launcher for an NLOS missile may result in a vehicle similar to the British Army’s Exactor, which is an M113 armed with a six cell launcher containing Spike Mk5/NLOS missiles. The Artesh have a multitude of M113 APCs that are convertible to support the same. If Iran’s proxies are eligible to receive these weapons in the coming decade, Israel and the GCC must find appropriate countermeasures.

No matter Tehran’s financial straits, the state-owned military-industrial sector is able to mass-produce enormous quantities of weapons. This makes it almost certain Iran’s “guided bombs” are bound to go places and cause trouble.

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