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Iran Beat The Odds With The Bavar-373

March 31, 2022
A Bavar-373 TEL at the “Defenders of the Velayat Skies 1400” exercises in 2021. Via Iranian media.

It’s no longer a secret how Iran’s state-owned companies that form its military-industrial sector are advertising their products to the world, albeit with a measure of subtlety. More than just sending dhows loaded with armaments to some allies the country’s renewed push for arms sales is motivated by the usual reasons: it’s a source of revenue, a contributor to national prestige, and another means for spreading influence. But what’s truly remarkable is how advanced some of Iran’s export approved military technology is and the best example is the Bavar-373.

The Bavar-373 is a long-range SAM meant for defending large territorial expanses along with its airspace against concerted attacks by bombers, cruise missiles, and drones. Its development, though kept under wraps for years and only hinted at by Iranian media, originated in the late 2000s and its goal was to counter the risk of an air campaign launched against Iran’s cities and vulnerable nuclear-related infrastructure. Although the armed force’s air defense branch were familiar operating many different SAMs, including the Chinese HQ-2 and the Soviet S-200, these were deemed inadequate against the threat posed by the US Air Force’s strategic bombers and the US Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missiles. The possibility of an Israeli attack using its air force’s F-15, F-16, and F-35 fighters couldn’t be ruled out either.

While Iran’s air defense branch operate the Russian-made S-300 the acquisition of these in the 2010s became problematic and their numbers can’t protect the entire national territory. It’s not surprising that Iran’s vast state-owned companies responsible for armaments production are churning out air defense systems at a rapid clip; time is of the essence and the sooner these are ready the risk of an Israeli or US attack diminishes. What is very surprising, however, is barely two years since it was unveiled in late 2019 the Bavar-373 is now offered for export. This was proven in 2021 when the performance characteristics of the “AD-200” SAM were leaked on social media and encrypted chatting apps. It turns out Iran is prepared to deliver the Bavar-373 and its equipment at an unspecified price point for countries who need new air defense systems–a large market in Africa and the Middle East.

Much like its analogues in China and Russia the Bavar-373’s Sayyed/Sayyad-4 missiles are vertically launched from its containers mounted on an 8×8 transporter. These are loaded either in twos or fours and each missile has a range of 200 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 27 km or 90,000 feet. It’s claimed the accompanying phased array radar of the Bavar-373 detects flying objects within a 320 km radius. The separate fire control or tracking radar can identify as many as six targets from 260 km away. The figures given must be deemed unverified for now as manufacturer’s claims don’t always align with the reality of operating the technology in wartime conditions.

The prospects for the Bavar-373 as an export are limited when compared to other types of air defense weapon systems. “Theater” level air defense is a very small niche that incurs exorbitant costs and years of planning. Turkey’s frustrated attempts at establishing a SAM network is illustrative of how challenging it can get. However, besides the Bavar-373’s characteristics Iran’s foreign policy is the most powerful tool for reaping profits by selling arms rather than delivering these to proxies. There are four potential operators who might select the Bavar-373 should Tehran allow its state-owned manufacturers, particularly the Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), to set up Bavar-373 units on behalf of a foreign end user.

So-called “rogue states” or countries reeling from US sanctions like Syria and Venezuela are current recipients of Iranian weaponry and are in line for accepting more; in the case of Venezuela the AIO helped them assemble fixed wing UAVs. Iran’s local allies in Iraq might be able to operate the Bavar-373 in the future since they are even better equipped than the regular armed forces in some aspects. A Gulf Arab state like Qatar is a surprising potential customer since its own foreign policy is more accommodating to Iran and it allowed the AIO’s participation at DIMDEX 2022.

The Bavar-373 belongs to a new generation of air defenses developed outside the usual Western and Russian supply chains and could alter regional calculations when any state chooses to protect itself with a sophisticated air defense system. Other countries such as India, South Korea, and Turkey are trying to catch up on their own with national SAM programs. For the reader’s convenience below is a partial tabulation of Iranian-made air defense/anti-aircraft weaponry.

Bavar-373LR-SAMroad mobile, 8×8Patriot PAC-2Operational
JoshanMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6RIM-66AOperational
15th of KhordadMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6RIM-66AOperational
3rd of KhordadMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6RIM-66AOperational
9 DeyMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6Buk M2EOperational
RaadMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6Buk M2EOperational
ZubinMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6FM-3000Operational
TabasMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6Buk M2EOperational
TalashMR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6RIM-66AOperational
DezfulSR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6Tor-M1Operational
Mersad 16SR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6MIM-23 iHawkOperational
MajidSR-SAMroad mobile, 4×4Sosna ADMS-1Operational
Ya ZahraSR-SAMroad mobile, 6×6Crotale/HQ-7Operational
QasemSR-SAM/AAAtowedM167 VADSn/a
“Sidewinder”SR-SAMmulti-platformAIM-9 SidewinderOperational
Misagh 1/2/3MANPADSman portable9K38 IglaOperational

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