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Israel And The US Air Force Should Fear The Iranian Bavar-373

November 21, 2019

Via Iranian media.

Undaunted by a weak economy and US-led sanctions, this year Iran joined a very exclusive club of less than a dozen countries able to manufacture theater air defenses. During annual celebrations of its military industries in August the Bavar-373 long-range SAM system was shown off and hailed as a national achievement; the country’s answer to Russia’s S-300, according to Iranian media. But the extensive coverage it enjoyed still left many questions unanswered about its performance.

Beyond forgettable propaganda the Bavar-373 proves the seriousness of Iran’s drive toward a self-sufficient military.

As far as can be ascertained, the Islamic Republic began manufacturing its own anti-aircraft missiles during the 1990s when China transferred some expertise and technology. The short-lived Sayyad-1 was an Iranian copy of the HQ-2, itself copied from the Soviet S-75 Dvina cherished by the North Vietnamese and other Eastern Bloc militaries. Fast forward to the 2010s and the extent of anti-aircraft weaponry manufactured by Iran outpaced its neighbors. All this effort culminated with the Bavar-373 whose basic external characteristics (see photo above) are now examined.

  1. Not to be confused with the MIM-104 Patriot PAC-2 or other NATO air defenses, the Bavar-373’s missile launcher employs four rectangular containers for each of its Sayyad-4 missiles. The shape of the launchers makes comparisons to Chinese and Russian SAMs a bit lazy since these foreign analogs have distinct cylindrical launchers. The Bavar-373’s launchers are mounted on a 10×10 truck rather than a separable trailer pulled by a dedicated transport.
  2. The Bavar-373 includes two radars. This is comparable to the long-range SAMs deployed with the Chinese and Russian militaries. The use of two radars for coordinating missile air defenses dates back to the mid-20th century. The arrangement allows a powerful acquisition radar to pinpoint nearby aircraft before the fire control radar locks on a target.
  3. The probable fire control radar on the Bavar-373 is patterned after the “tombstone” radars used for Russian long-range SAMs. When activated the radar feeds targeting data to the mobile command post before a missile is launched. What’s remarkable about it is the Iranians managed to design their own with an accompanying transporter. None of the Bavar-373’s subsystems look like they were supplied by a foreign source.
  4. The mobile command post of the Bavar-373 is run by a small team who are responsible for six launchers (24 missiles in total) in a single battery. The structure of Bavar-373 units hasn’t been revealed yet but to defend a strategic city like Bandar Bushehr along the Persian Gulf coast, for example, may require a single battery whose coverage extends over a 200 km radius. If four batteries (a hypothetical battalion) were assigned to defend Tehran’s airspace, this creates an interlocking network boosted by the older SAM sites near the city, making Iran’s capital a daunting target for conventional strike aircraft.
  5. Iran’s military industries have active productions lines for almost a dozen types of SAMs. But unlike previous reverse engineered models based on Chinese, Russian, and US technology the Bavar-373 is armed with Sayyad-4 missiles; a local design whose range is claimed to be over 200 kilometers. Its flight altitude is above average as well, reaching almost 30 km or 30,000 meters. The extreme range is at least one indicator the Bavar-373 is an anti-ballistic and cruise missile system, both are features that earns comparisons with the S-400 Triumf.

At least one unnamed analyst did shed light on another crucial detail about the Bavar-373’s role as part of a layered air defense network. Since the Bavar-373’s existence was revealed as far back as 2011 with Iranian leaders praising its technology on numerous occasions, it’s possible the Bavar-373 was meant to operate together with Iran’s locally made very high frequency (VHF) radars. This could explain why some insist the Bavar-373 is a counter-stealth air defense system able to track flying objects with small radar cross-sections.

The addition of a VHF radar, whose coverage may extend to twice the Sayyad-4 missile’s maximum range, together with the acquisition and fire control radars allows each Bavar-373 battery to observe enormous swathes of neighboring airspace. To use Bandar Bushehr as an example once again, two or three batteries of Bavar-373’s outside the city, when looped with a VHF radar, can monitor incoming hostile aircraft originating from US bases in Kuwait and Qatar. A preemptive strike flying over the Iraqi or Arabian desert risks exposure as well.

The idea that punitive sanctions are able to check Iran’s expansion in the Middle East is dubious. Just as with other successful localized weapon systems there are few constraints on Iran to mass-produce the Bavar-373. Once it joins the country’s air defense grid along with the older HQ-2’s, S-200’s, and S-300PMU2’s the very idea of waging an unrestricted campaign against Iran becomes a dangerous fantasy.

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