In the midst of the escalating crisis between the US and Iran and successive threats from Iranian civilian and military officials, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Deputy for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Saleh Jokar announced last week that Iranian missiles are capable of hitting any point within a 2,000-km radius and that “even our short-range missiles can easily reach [US] warships in the Gulf.”
His comments, made in the Iranian city of Yazd, came shortly after US President Donald Trump said the US does not want to go to war with Iran.
Since the withdrawal of the US from the nuclear agreement on May 8, 2018, and the start of the process of imposing sanctions – which reached the stage of annulling oil revenues on May 2 this year – the US has said that Iranian missile activities pose a danger to not only the US and its regional allies, but the world. The most important of the 12 conditions set by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to negotiate with Iran, with the aim of reaching a new nuclear agreement in place of the previous “bad agreement” as Trump has described it, is that Iran must cease its production of missiles.
Why is Iran developing missiles?
Thanks to US support, Iran had a highly developed and modern air force in the era of the Shah, which included the F-14 Tomcat fighter, ranked as the best fighter at the time, as well as the F-4 Phantom II fighter, the F5 Northrop fighter, and AH-1J Super Cobra combat helicopter.
Iran lost many of its fighters in the Iran-Iraq war. Though it still has US military aircraft, it is unable to modernize them due to the US embargo. All of Iran’s aircrafts are third-generation models manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s, unable to compete with the fourth-generation aircraft owned by many of its neighbors.
For this reason, since the end of the war in 1988, Iran has tried to compensate for its vulnerability in the air with rocket force, and began a missile production mission with the help of North Korea and China. However, Iran has been far more ambitious than its stated goals suggested. It has intensified its nuclear activities and production of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Contrary to its claims that its missiles have a deterrent mission and not an offensive one, it has also continued to provide its agents in the region, such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, with various missiles to serve its proxy wars.
Iran is exaggerating its missile power because it wants to have a Trump card at hand when necessary. In fact, the precision and strength of Iranian missiles have yet to be verified.
On October 1, 2018, Iran fired six missiles at eastern Syria from the Kermanshah province, two of which fell within seconds of their launch. The attack was targeted at gunmen in Syria involved in the attack on a military parade in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz on September 22.
But according to a report published by Jangavazar, a Persian-language website covering everything arms-related, “The investigation into Iran’s missile technology shows that these missiles can reach 70 percent of Asia.”
Independent sources cannot not confirm the validity of information published by Tehran about its missile power. Here is what we know about Iranian missiles based on Iranian reports.
The Sejjil missile
The Sejjil missile is a long-range surface-to-surface missile operating on solid fuel. Iran claims to have produced it with the aid of local technology and experts from the Geospatial Organization affiliated with the defense ministry.
This ballistic missile has a range of about 2,000 km and is launched from a mobile platform.
Iran has so far produced two models of this missile, the Sejjil 1 and the Sejjil 2, considered the most important in Iran’s arsenal.
The Persian Gulf missile
Tehran claims that this missile, named after Iran’s name for the Arabian Gulf, is faster than the speed of sound. Classified by Tehran as a smart missile, it can be fired from ships and from the ground. If Iran’s information is correct, this missile may be the one that Mohammad Saleh Jokar referred to.
Iran claims that this solid fuel missile has a 300-km range and a 650-kg warhead. In the near future, Iran will produce missiles of the same type, but with a longer range.
The Shahab ballistic missiles
The most famous Iranian missiles are the Shahab missiles, numbered 1 to 6. These missiles are clones of a Russian missile called SS-1 or Scud, produced by Iraq in the 1980s as Al Hussein and Al-Abbas. Iran obtained the missiles from Libya and benefited from North Korea’s technical support in their production.
Some of the most important missiles from this group are the medium-range (1,300 km) Shahab-3, the 2,000-km range Shahab-3B, and the 2,200 to 3,000-km Shahab-3D. The long-range version of the Shahab missile has reached 3,000 km and is called Shahab-4. Later, Iran claimed that it converted the missile into a space rocket called the Kouchner-1, but failed to put a satellite with this missile into orbit.
Western and Israeli sources have claimed the existence of a long-range missile called Shahab 5, but Iran has not shared any information about it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed in 1998 that Iran was developing a Shahab-4 to reach Europe and had plans to produce a Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 to target the American east coast. Reports say that the range of the Shahab-6 missile is 10,000 km and that it carries a head of 1,000 to 1,500 kg, manufactured with Russian and North Korean technologies. It has also been reported that the Shahab-6 missile, made with the help of Korea, is a version of the Taepodong-2 missile.
The Fateh missiles
There are 10 models of the Fateh missile. Four of these, the Fateh 110A, 110B, 110C, and 110D, are surface-to-surface missiles with ranges between 250 and 300 km, while the surface-to-surface Fateh 313 missile has a range of 500 km on land. The Fateh 110D also has surface-to-land capabilities.
They also include the surface-to-surface 700-km range Zulfiqar, the Hormuz-1 300-km range anti-radar, the Hormuz-2 anti-ships, and the Fateh Mobin with surface-to-surface and surface-to-sea capabilities and a range unspecified by Iran. The Persian Gulf missile can also be added to this category.
The Ghadr-110 missile
Iran says the Ghadr-110 is the fastest in the world. It has a range between 2,500 and 3,000 km according to Iran, which also claims that it can surpass all radars and anti-missiles. With this range and potential, this missile is capable of reaching 70 percent of the European continent.
The Ghadr-110 is an upgraded version of the Shahab-3. Iran says it designed a new engine for the Shahab-3 in 2005 and later the new engine was installed in the Ghadr, Ghadr-110, and Ghadr-110A.
The Ghadr missile is a version of the Chinese M-18. Another version of the Chinese missile is manufactured in Pakistan under the name of Shaheen.
The Khorramshahr missile
Khorramshahr is the Persian name of the Arab city of Mahmra southwest of Ahvaz. A surface-to-surface missile, it measures 15 m by 1.5 m, has a range of 2,000 km, and is capable of carrying a multi-purpose head.
As part of military maneuvers Iran announces from time to time the existence of various groups of missiles. Below is a list of some of these.
– The Qiam, a surface-to-surface, wingless, liquid fueled ballistic missile, with a special launch platform, a range of 800 km, and a head weight of 746 kg.
– The Ashura, a surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 2500 km that can target Europe.
– The whale marine, a version of a Russian missile which is considered the fastest among naval missiles. It cannot be detected by radars. Iran is developing its ability to hit US naval vessels in the Gulf.
– The Fajr, a 75-km range missile carrying a head of 175 kilograms that can be fired from cars.
– The Hunter-1, an anti-aircraft missile with a 200-kg head, a speed of 1,200 m per second. The medium-range version is known as Hunter-2.
– The Nasr, a series of anti-ship short-range cruise missiles which can be launched from helicopters.
– The Asre-67, an anti-trench missile.
– The Zubein, an air-to-surface missile.