Skip to content

Iranian Missiles Come In All Sizes

July 5, 2022
Two Heydar-1 missiles are displayed below a Fotros combat drone. Via Iranian media.

In late May footage of a sizable underground facility showed the latest armaments produced for the Islamic Republic’s always growing combat drone fleet. These include the “Heydar-1” air-launched missile and its larger variant the “Heydar-2” that has a small jet engine underneath is fuselage. By its appearance alone the Heydar-2 is an outsized loitering munition designed to hit targets at extreme ranges. There’s now sufficient evidence all branches of Iran’s military have underground facilities for storing various war material and the contents of these locations are becoming more diverse.

The 2010s saw a remarkable amount of media coverage for Iran’s advanced military products with some now export approved. During the tour of the underground “drone base” in May combat drones such as the Fotros, Karrar, Mohajer-6, Kaman-12, Kaman-22, and different loitering munitions were parked in rows. The message was clear enough even if unstated; Iranian combat drones are armed and very dangerous. The Heydar-1 in particular, which can be launched from either the Fotros or Kaman-22, is actually a scaled down cruise missile that Iranian media claim travels as far away as 200 kilometers. The accuracy of Iranian precision-guided munitions are well-known and if the numbers reported about the Heydar-1 are true it’s a very potent weapon when used in the Persian Gulf from where it can reach any target along the Arabian coast.

Although it’s limited by subsonic flight the Heydar-1 should have a warhead powerful enough to pulverize any stationary target. This is a noticeable trend among Iranian weapons tailored for its combat drones or incorporating drone technology–they have significant payloads. The shape and dimensions of the Heydar-1 suggests it’s a repurposed anti-ship missile–several are manufactured locally–but with a still undefined guidance system for its air-launched role. Iran’s current inventory of anti-ship missiles originate in the late 1980s when it acquired them from China and then commenced local assembly.

The twin-boom Fotros combat drone shown with Heydar-1 missiles was developed over the course of a decade. It resembles the IAI Super Heron albeit with hardpoints under its wings for carrying ordnance. There are two other recent medium altitude combat drones Iran’s military branches are receiving. In early 2021 the Kaman-22 was introduced for the air force and a few months later the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) unveiled the Gaza, which can fly with or without ordnance under its wings, to complement the older Shahed-129 drones whose appearance mimics the Elbit Systems Hermes 450. This year still another medium altitude model was revealed called the Ababil-5. The rationale for having so many combat drones issued to separate military branches is multi-faceted. It works as a substitute for dwindling air power once provided by legacy aircraft. Mass-producing so many drones helps sustain Iran’s aerospace sector and enlarge its importance to the national economy. The same trend is happening in Turkey with its local “champions” such as Baykar and TAI that are allowed to export their models far and wide.

Returning to the Heydar-1 air-launched cruise missile all of Iran’s regional adversaries should be on edge. In the absence of diplomacy to defuse tensions arch-foes Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and even CENTCOM have little to rely on except incomplete ground-based air defenses when protecting their territory from Iranian missiles. It’s a deterrent that’s been proven to fail on a regular basis. Israel in particular faces the prospect of many different standoff munitions fielded by a rival. It’s something its former opponents Egypt and Syria never fielded in adequate numbers. Iran is different and there’s little to be done when its locally made combat drones and their accompanying weapons end up in Syria, unless their hangars and storage facilities are bombed preemptively.

Comments are closed.