Jane's Intelligence Review

June 1, 1995


LENGTH: 2118 words

HEADLINE: Strategic Delivery Systems


Iran's drive to deploy ballistic missiles and to acquire long-range strike aircraft is part of an effort to fill gaps in its arsenal demonstrated during the Iran-Iraq War.

Iraq's air and missile forces launched wide-ranging attacks on strategic targets in Iran at a time when Iran lacked the ability to respond in kind. Iran's air force had little capability to hit strategic targets, while the country only acquired ballistic missiles in limited numbers. Subsequently, Iran also noted the political impact of Iraq's 'Scud' attacks during the Gulf War.

Tehran's political and military leaderships are now firmly convinced of the need to deploy long-range strike aircraft and to have a large arsenal of long-range missiles. Iran is engaged in a major drive to enhance its capabilities in these areas.

The War of the Cities

Iraq first used FROG 7 rockets against Iranian military concentrations and border towns in the opening weeks of the Iran-Iraq War. This pushed Iran to search for weapons to respond in kind and Iran's acquisition of artillery rockets laid the basis for its future missile programme. The missile war escalated in the mid-1980s when Iraq's air force and 'Scuds' struck at Iranian cities and pushed the Islamic Republic to look for a comparable response. Iran obtained 'Scud Bs' from Syria, Libya and possibly North Korea and used them against major cities including Baghdad and Basra. During this first war of the cities, Iran's strategic depth prevented Iraq's missiles from reaching major targets such as Tehran. By 1988, however, Iraq had developed its extended range 'Scud', the al-Hussein, and took Iran by surprise with its strikes on key urban conurbations. In the spring of 1988, Iraq launched up to 200 SSMs against Tehran, Qom and Isfahan. Although only 2000 people were killed in these attacks, they caused panic in the populace and hundreds of thousands fled the cities.

During the war, Iranian leaders frequently exaggerated their capabilities in the missile field. Although their 'Scud Bs' could hit Baghdad, these weapons lacked the accuracy or destructive power to do significant damage. In addition, Iran was unable to match Iraq's quantity of missiles. Iraq fired 361 'Scud Bs' at Iran from 1982 to 1988 and about 160 al-Hussein's at Tehran in early 1988. In contrast, Iran fired 117 'Scuds' throughout the war, including perhaps 60 fired at Baghdad.

Iran's Rocketry

Iran's initial efforts in the field of rocketry involved manufacturing unguided battlefield rockets. This programme went ahead with Chinese help and Iran now has a well-established manufacturing base in this field. Most of these weapons are copies or modifications of Chinese rockets. One of the earliest was the 240 mm Oghab, a copy of the Chinese Type 83 artillery rocket. This 34-40 km range rocket has a circular error probable (CEP) of over 1000 m and can carry a warhead of up to 300 kg. Three rockets are carried on and launched from Mercedes-Benz trucks. Around 300 were fired during the war against Iraq and they appear to have been of limited effectiveness.

Another rocket is the Nazeat, or Iran-130, which appears to be of indigenous design. This is a 355 mm solid fuel rocket with a 150 kg warhead and maximum range of 120-130 km. It reportedly performed poorly during the Iran-Iraq War but may have been improved since. The Iranian Defence Industries Organization reportedly offered the system for sale to foreign customers in 1993. There are also indications that the term Nazeat applies to a family of short-range rockets, including the 40 km range Raad.

A third rocket, the Shahin 2, has been developed and deployed since 1988. This is smaller than the Nazeat and has a range of 20 km. It can be equipped with a 180 kg warhead, a submunition warhead or a chemical warhead.

Another family of rockets is the Mushak range. These can reach from 120-200 km and were used during the latter stages of the Iran-Iraq War to hit border towns and military installations. The Fajr 3 is another local product with a range of 45 km. In addition, a 200 km range rocket designated Iran-200 has been identified.

Missile Programmes

Iran realizes the range and accuracy limitations of unguided rockets and has put a major effort into acquiring a ballistic missile capability. This effort has proceeded along parallel tracks: the purchase of missiles and launchers and the setting up of an assembly and manufacturing capability. Iran's efforts in this latter area appear to have been remarkably unsuccessful, despite 1985 and 1989 technology transfer agreements with North Korea, and the country remains reliant on foreign suppliers. This is not a comfortable situation for a regime that has found itself cut off from reliable sources of hardware since its inception.

Iran began the Iran-Iraq War with no SSM capability but managed to import SS-1 'Scud Bs' (R-17Es) in 1985 from Libya and in 1986 from Syria. The Revolutionary Guard Corps, which took charge of the weapons, used them against Iraq between 1985 and 1988.

Since the end of the war with Iraq, Iran has sought to augment its missile force in terms of both quantity and quality. Between 1987 and 1992, Iran bought 200-300 'Scud Bs' from North Korea. Iran's arsenal now probably consists of between eight to 15 MAZ-543 transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) and 250-300 'Scud B' missiles. Iran has also taken a direct role in North Korea's indigenous ballistic missile programmes. Tehran reached an agreement with Pyongyang to finance development of longer-range missiles in return for technology transfer and the option to purchase finished weapons. In 1987 Iran took delivery of some 100 'Scud Mod Bs' from North Korea. The 'Scud Mod B' was North Korea's first true indigenously produced ballistic missile and has a range of about 320 km. North Korea helped Iran set up a 'Scud Mod B' assembly plant which was operational by the spring of 1988. This plant, however, has not progressed to manufacturing missiles, as had been hoped.

Iran was also involved in North Korea's production of the 'Scud Mod C'. This missile, partly based on Iraq's al-Hussein SSM, is an extended-range version of the 'Scud Mod B'. With a smaller warhead, its range has been extended to 500 km. It also reportedly has an upgraded inertial guidance system which reduces the CEP. North Korea began production of these missiles in 1989 and Iran received shipments from January 1991. Iran's goal appears to be to build a force of several hundred of these this decade and, by 1994, it reportedly had between 170 and 200 in its arsenal. A live firing test was carried out by Iran in May 1991. Iran also received North Korean help in converting a missile maintenance plant into an assembly facility for 'Scud Mod Cs'.

North Korea's missile development programme continues apace and Iran continues to be closely involved. The North Koreans began to flight test the No-Dong 1 in mid-1990 but did not appear to carry out a successful test flight until May 1993. An Iranian delegation was reportedly on hand for this test and Iran is keen to take delivery, but has not yet done so. The No-Dong 1 is a completely redesigned missile, though based on 'Scud' technology. It is liquid fuelled and one report puts its CEP at 2-4 km. North Korea is also reported to be developing missiles with ranges of 1500-2000 km (known as the Taepo-Dong 1) and 2000-3000 km (the Taepo-Dong 2). Iran is keeping a close eye on these programmes.

Iran has also sought to purchase SSMs and production technology from China. In 1989, Iran bought between 150 and 200 CSS-8 missiles and 30-35 launchers. The short (150 km) range of these missiles, however, did not satisfy Iran's needs and it has tried to acquire Chinese M-9 and M-11 missiles. The M family of missiles was designed by China for export, and the M-9 and M-11 are both single-stage, solid-fuel, road-mobile missiles. The M-9 is reported to have a range of 600 km, a warhead of 500-600 kg and a CEP of 300 m; the M-11 has a range of 300 km, a warhead of 500-800 kg and a CEP of 600 m.

Reports indicate that talks have focused on the transfer of production technology. China agreed in 1988 to help Iran set up the infrastructure to design, build and test medium-range missiles. The goal of this programme is apparently to develop missiles with ranges of up to 1000 km. Despite press reports identifying tests of missiles given the names Iran-700 and Tondar-68, there is no sign that this co-operation has yet borne fruit. Repeated US requests to Beijing that it not supply the M series of missiles have clearly slowed the programme.

Another potential partner is Libya. Although reports remain vague, there have been suggestions that Iran is working with Libya to revive that country's stalled al-Fatah SSM programme, and Iran may have purchased Libya's designs for the project. The al-Fatah is a German-designed weapon with a possible range of 950 km.

Future Missile Developments

Although Iran has learnt to manufacture short-range rockets, so far it has not progressed beyond assembly of imported ballistic missiles. This has been in spite of a major investment in resources and finance over the past decade. According to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Iran has faced bottlenecks in its missile development programme due to shortages in skilled personnel, technology and other materials. One problem has been the difficulty Iran has faced in copying Iraq's strategy of using clandestine procurement in the West to obtain key materials and technology. Western governments have been much more careful concerning exports to Iran than they ever were in regard to Iraq. A recent report by the Zollkriminalamt suggested that Iran is able to do no more than manufacture minor missile parts and that it has tried but failed to reverse-engineer imported 'Scuds'.

As a result of these failings, Iran has had to rely primarily on the products of North Korea's missile programmes. This policy has resulted in a supply of increasingly long-range but inaccurate SSMs. If North Korea continues its research and development, then there is no reason why Iran should not gradually acquire more potent weapons. However, this avenue poses major problems for the Islamic Republic. First, North Korea's indigenous technological achievements are likely to remain limited. There is little sign of the development of more accurate missiles, meaning that Iran will only be able to use its SSMs as counter-value weapons rather than as counter-force weapons.

The link with North Korea also has more general drawbacks. Iranian leaders recognize that, by allying themselves with the pariah regime in Pyongyang, they are further isolating their country in the international community. Furthermore, the reliance on North Korean supplies cannot be comforting to the armed forces. Although Iran is attempting to build up a stockpile of missiles, it is unclear whether North Korea can produce weapons in sufficient quantities to meet Iran's potential wartime needs.

There have been suggestions that Iran may be trying to develop a cruise missile capability. It is possible that its designers will seek to build on their experience of producing unmanned aerial vehicles.

A more immediate prospect is that Iran will be able to extend the range of its Chinese Hai Ying-2 'Silkworms', which have a maximum effective range of 80 km, or its Ying Jai-1 C-801 anti-ship missiles, as Iraq sought to do before the Gulf War. China reportedly built a facility near Bandar Abbas in 1987 where it is helping the Revolutionary Guards to boost the range of these missiles, and North Korea recently test-fired an extended-range HY-2.

A further step of concern to Iran's neighbours is the prospect of mounting chemical or biological warheads onto its missiles. There is no hard evidence concerning this question, but it seems likely that Iran has the capability. A report that Iran tested a chemical warhead in the late 1980s cannot be confirmed. The 'Scud Mod C' in service with North Korea has a chemical warhead.

More importantly, Syria is reported to have chemical warheads for its missiles. The two countries have very close links in the missile field, with Iran having served as a transhipment point for 'Scud Mod Cs' from 1991 to 1993. It is highly probable that warhead technology has been shared. Libya may also have passed on Soviet technology in this field.

GRAPHIC: Photograph 1, This Iraqi 'Scud' was launched against Tehran in 1988 but failed to explode. Iraq's ability to hit major Iranian cities with extended-range 'Scuds' took Iran by surprise.; Photograph 2, Iranian HQ-2 - eight battalions of these missiles were bought from China in 1987. Although mainly for air defence, they can also be used against surface targets.; Photograph 3, North Korean 'Scuds' on parade in 1992. From 1987 to that year, Iran bought 200-300 North Korean 'Scud Bs' and has taken a direct role in the country's missile programmes.; Photograph 4, Iranian 'Scud' during a 1987 parade in Tehran. Hindered progress in producing its own SSMs has left Iran dependent on North Korean missiles. (Sygma)


LOAD-DATE: June 12, 1995