Aggravated after the events in the Gulf of Oman, when two oil tankers were blown up, the situation around Iran increases the chances of a war against the Islamic Republic. In conditions when western countries can launch rocket attacks on Iranian targets, Iran’s air defense is acquiring great importance.
Iran’s air defense has a significant number of anti-aircraft missile systems. The country’s army is represented by air defense systems of various manufacturers. So, as part of air defense there are complexes of American, British, Chinese, as well as Soviet / Russian production. Finding the country under economic sanctions has led to the fact that Iran has mastered its own production of anti-aircraft missile systems. However, the country is experiencing a significant shortage of modern air defense systems. The vast majority of its air defense weapons are outdated morally and physically. In addition, the presence of air defense systems from different manufacturers greatly complicates maintenance. Often, air defense systems are simply incompatible with each other. There are significant problems with the availability of spare parts, which very often leads to system failure as a result of breakdowns. However, the Iranians, under sanctions, are trying to produce components for air defense systems on their own.
The most modern air defense systems of Iran are S-300PMU-2 “Favorite, delivered from Russia in 2016. A total of four divisions were delivered. This happened after Russia abandoned the arms embargo on Iran in April 2015. It is noteworthy that the S-300 divisions are not part of the country’s army, but are subject to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Of course, their number is not enough to fully cover the territory of the country. The Iranian military uses the S-300 to cover key objects. Two divisions are deployed in the Tehran region, one more cover the port city of Bushehr on the shores of the Persian Gulf and the area of the city of Isfahan. However, the IRGC repeatedly worked on the exercises to transfer the S-300 battalions in cases of crisis situations. Thus, the air defense missile system can be deployed to the south of the country and block the airspace over the Persian Gulf. It is worth noting that the presence of S-300 is not a panacea for possible US air and missile strikes. The existing divisions cover only local areas, there are numerous “corridors” uncovered by modern air defense systems in Iran’s airspace, which Western partners will surely take advantage of.
In 2016, the Iranians announced the creation of a Bavar-373 air defense system, which, according to them, has become an improved analogue of the Russian S-300. However, given the real situation in the military-industrial complex of Iran, such statements are seriously exaggerated. However, in August 2016, the air defense system was shown to the general public. However, reliable information on the entry of the Bavar-373 air defense system into service has not been reported.
In addition, in the Iranian army there are 5 battalions (each with 6 anti-aircraft systems) S-200VE Vega-E, which have the ability to hit targets at a distance of up to 240 kilometers. These missiles were delivered from Russia in the early 1990s. S-200VE are engaged in fixed positions, covering the country’s key facilities in Tehran, Esfahan, as well as at the Hamadan airbase and the Bender-Abbas naval base. It is worth noting that in cases of war, the outdated and low mobility S-200 will become a fairly easy target for rocket attacks from Western countries.
In addition, there are about 50 Kvadrat SAM systems in service with the Iranian and IRGC armies, but, apparently, they have already exhausted their resources. In any case, they were no longer used in training exercises and shown at military parades.
In 2005, a batch of 29 short-range Tor-M1 air defense systems was delivered from Russia to Iran. This air defense system is the most modern in its class in the Iranian army. “Tor-M1” is designed to hit targets at a distance of 1 to 12 kilometers at an altitude of up to 10 kilometers. This type of air defense system covers nuclear power plants in Bushehr. Despite the good characteristics of the Torah, they are not capable of destroying targets flying at high altitude, which does not allow them to reliably cover the enemy using high-precision weapons from aviation and missile strikes.
Along with the Soviet / Russian-made air defense system, the Iranian army is equipped with air defense systems manufactured in the USA, Great Britain and China. So, in the army of Iran consists in the arsenal of the Chinese complex HQ-2J, which is actually a copy of the Soviet C-75. These air defense systems were shipped from China to Iran in the 1980s in the amount of 14 pieces. In the early 1990s, Iran upgraded the HQ-2J, installing Sayyad-1 self-defense missiles on them. Currently, this type of air defense system is outdated morally and physically. They are distinguished by extremely low noise immunity, which makes them vulnerable to EW facilities. The low mobility of the HQ-2J will lead to the fact that their positions can be quickly destroyed by an enemy with modern weapons.
In addition, in 1989, the FM-80 SAM systems installed on two-axle trailers were delivered from China to Iran. In fact, the complex is a Chinese copy of the French air defense system Crotale. The FM-80 SAM system is capable of hitting targets at a range of up to 12 km at an altitude of up to 5 km. In 2010, on the basis of the Chinese air defense system, its improved Iranian counterpart, the Ya Zahra-3 air defense system with local-made anti-aircraft missiles, was created.
The MIM-23B Improved Hawk, which was supplied from the United States back in the 1970s, remains the most massive air defense system in the Iranian army. The complex is capable of hitting targets at a range of up to 40 km, flying at an altitude of up to 18 kilometers. The condition set over 40 years ago, the air defense system can hardly be called satisfactory. However, they continue to be in service with the Iranian army. on the basis of the MIM-23B Improved Hawk, its local counterpart Mersad is released. He is also armed with a local-made rocket Shalamcheh. However, Mersad air defense system is not a fully Iranian product. When creating it used Chinese components. In general, after modernization by Chinese specialists, the Iranian copy is not much inferior to the American original. In total, the Iranian army has at least 120 MIM-23B Improved Hawk and Mersad SAMs. However, the air defense system of the 1970s is not able to effectively resist the missile and air strikes of Western countries.
Some of the Rapier air defense systems purchased in the UK in the early 1970s remain in service with the Iranian army. However, due to wear and the impossibility of acquiring standardized missiles and spare parts, Iranian specialists had to carry out reconditioning themselves and, possibly, start production of anti-aircraft missiles. Naturally, these air defense systems are simply not capable of causing significant damage to the enemy with modern aviation technology.
In addition to the procured abroad air defense system, Iran has established an independent production of its own air defense systems. The country produces Talash and Ra’ad / Ra’ad-2 complexes. The air defense systems of the first type are largely copied from the American Patriot. They are mounted on the wheelbase of the MZKT-6922 tractor set from Belarus and its local copy. Although, in the case of Talash, the Iranian military often installed an air defense missile launcher on the truck chassis. In 2017, the system was upgraded to Talash-2 and can now hit air targets at a range of up to 120 km flying at an altitude of 27 km. It is in service with the Iranian army and the IRGC.
SAM Ra’ad is also installed on the wheelbase of the tractor MZKT-6922. Many elements of the air defense system borrowed from the Buk-M2E. The Iranian military claims that the Ra’ad-2 air defense system is capable of hitting targets at distances of up to 200 km, flying at an altitude of up to 30 km. However, the claimed range of damage hardly corresponds to the actual one. Most likely, it is in the region of 70-80 kilometers. In fact, the Iranian Talash and Ra’ad / Ra’ad-2 are highly mobile complexes with attached radar detection equipment designed to cover parts of the ground forces.
In addition, Iran has a huge amount of anti-aircraft artillery. It includes the Shilka ZSU-23-4 purchased from the USSR in the 1970s, some of which went through local modernization and were called Soheil. It is noteworthy that MANPADS were attached to the hull. Their total number can reach 100 cars. The Iranians created their own ZSU on the basis of the KrAZ-6322 truck, installing on it a twin 57 mm anti-aircraft guns with the ZSU-57-2, which had been decommissioned by the Iranian army. The car was named Bachmann. In the Iranian army, the obsolete S-60 57-mm anti-aircraft guns, supplied from the USSR, are still in service. In addition, in the country’s army, ZU-23-2, also supplied from the Soviet Union and their local copies, are present in huge quantities. An upgraded counterpart of the Soviet KS-19 100-mm anti-aircraft gun, model 1949, was created in Iran. He received the name “Cair”. The Iranian army has over 1,000 Oerlikon anti-aircraft installations and their local copies of Samavat, which received an upgraded fire control system. In addition, the Iranians created their own Mesbah anti-aircraft artillery system, placing on the gun carriage a 57-mm anti-aircraft gun S-60 3 twin guns from the ZU-23-2. However, this miracle of technology never went into service.
The Iranian army has a large number of anti-aircraft machine gun installations ZPU-2, ZPU-4 and DShK machine guns. An attempt was made to create a multi-barreled anti-aircraft gun based on a DShK, when 8 machine-gun barrels were immediately placed on the carriage. The Iranians created their own six-barreled Mukharam machine gun in 12.7 millimeters caliber. Its rate of fire exceeds 30 shots per second.
However, the presence of numerous anti-aircraft artillery and machine guns, designed to combat low-flying targets, is not able to adequately withstand the missile and air strikes of western countries.
In service with the army and the IRGC of Iran consists of over 3,500 MANPADS. These are Soviet Strela-3 and Iranian copies of modern Chinese MANPADS of the QW-1 \ 1M family (purchased in quantities of more than 1,750 units) Misagh-1 and 2. The Chinese MANPADS was created by combining the best components of Stinger and Needles, hit targets at an altitude of up to 5 kilometers. Misagh-1 is its copy. The exact characteristics of Misagh-2 are still unknown. A huge amount of weapons of this type can inflict significant damage to the helicopters of a potential enemy, but it is virtually useless to repel missile attacks from Western countries.
Thus, despite its large number, Iran’s air defenses are simply not able to repel massive missile and air strikes by the United States and other Western countries. Suffice it to recall that the territory of Syria is regularly subjected to virtually unpunished strikes by Israel, despite the presence of quite modern air defense systems. Of course, in the case of Iran, the situation is somewhat different from the Syrian one. So, over Iranian territory there is a complete radar coverage, which Syria lost during the years of the civil war. Iran’s numerous radars control the country’s airspace. However, in cases of the onset of rocket and air strikes, they will become the original targets of Western countries that have a developed system for suppressing enemy air defenses. The few S-300s simply cannot protect the entire territory of the country. The main part of the Iranian anti-aircraft missile systems is a weapon of yesterday and the day before yesterday. Numerous anti-aircraft artillery is simply useless against the United States and its allies. Thus, the Iranian air defense system is objectively unable to withstand the attacks of Western countries in the event of the beginning of an armed conflict.