16.05.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Iran claims successes in its air defense

Iran claims successes in its air defense

Despite decades of sanctions imposed by foreign powers, the Islamic Republic of Iran has garnered tremendous experience surviving and thriving in isolation. Given Tehran’s political system, which is not so much a theocratic form of government as an independent course, is under attack by Iran’s adversaries, the Iranian authorities have prioritized the strengthening of their army and navy. In order to do this, a lot of attention is put on the development of key technologies, mainly in the defense industry, as well as the advancement of education and research.

For many foreign experts it was a revelation that it turns out that Iran has achieved a major breakthrough in the development and production of unmanned aerial vehicles. At the same time, the spoils of the Iranian UAVs on some “hot conflict” fields have allowed experts to also discover advanced Western technology. The Iranian capabilities, meantime, created a stir in a number of international newspapers, raising the question of how the Persians acquired these outlawed and sanctioned technologies from the West or Israel.

Some believe that the Iranians simply ordered products through the AliExpress channel to fictitious addresses, disassembled them, and had local engineers create new inventions (such as joining a water line to a gas line in the hopes of creating carbonated water). Others argue that Iranian replicas of Western technologies are the result of successful scientific, technological, and industrial espionage by Iranian foreign intelligence agencies, specifically the Ministry of Information, IRGC intelligence units, and the Ministry of Defense.

How can one, however, recognize such enemy intelligence triumphs when it also indicates counterintelligence support failures for sanctioned technology and products from NATO nations and their partner Israel? At the same time, their opponents cannot admit (whether out of envy or for other reasons) that Iran simply had to spend a lot of money over the years to build its own education and research, rather than encouraging corruption, as is the situation in other post-Soviet countries. However, the real condition of the arms of the Iranian army should be accepted as a fact.

The commander of the Iranian Army’s Air Defense Force, Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi-Fard recently stated in an interview with Al-Alam News Network, an Arabic news channel, that Iran now has absolute power in the region due to significant technological progress in the production of military equipment, particularly air defense weapons. Moreover, Iran relies 100 percent on its own high-tech production. Tehran now has more opportunities to export domestically produced weapons therefore.

Any army and every war place a high priority on an effective air defense. By assuming control of aerial combat, the army is able to conduct effective defensive and offensive operations during combat operations.

Iranian air defense forces are structurally a combination of the army and IRGC air defense units. Khatam-al Anbiya Central Headquarter of General Staff of Armed Forces is in charge of coordinating joint military operations within the Iranian forces. It should be mentioned that the Iranians build their own air defense systems and have previously tested several of them in live combat.

Iran’s air defense system includes: Radar systems (Nazir, Fath-14, the Matla ul-Fajr and Kashef, Meraj-4, etc.); medium-range SAMS (100-240 km) Bavar-373, Khordad-15, Talash, 3rd Khordad, Mersad-16 and short-range SAMS (up to 100 km) Ya Zahra-3 and Herz-9. In fact, the Bavar-373 is an enhanced version of the Russian S-300PMU-2 Favorit. Iran makes a variety of combat and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including the Karrar, Ababil, and Mojaher as well as upgraded ballistic Shahab, Sajil, and the Meskat medium-range cruise missiles.

In addition to using outdated but still functional U.S. systems left over from the Shah regime, trophy French equipment from the experience of the war with Iraq, Iran still has to combine its own production of air defense equipment with imports of relevant military equipment from Russia, China, and India. Some of Iran’s most recent innovations in this field involve modifying the equipment bought from China and Russia.

Air defense facilities cover the sky, administrative and political centers, troop concentrations, and critical facilities such as defense-industry enterprises, Natanz nuclear facility and the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant.

Iran, despite its reliance on domestic production, cannot yet match the world leaders in the development and production of air defense systems, particularly Russia and the United States. Nonetheless, the Iranian military-industrial complex’s success is becoming noticeable in the Middle East. According to Russian experts such as Ruslan Pukhov, developing air defense systems is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. The process of testing one type of equipment at army ranges to placing it on combat duty in the troops can often take up to ten years.

However, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has had to deal with improving its own defense industry for more than four decades. We only possess a portion of the information available in public, since no one discloses all of their accomplishments and technological characteristics.

Furthermore, the current political and military environment and tensions with Israel, the NATO bloc, and the United States encourage Iran to accelerate its military development. For Iranian topography, the east, south, and west have always had a high level of military escalation. On Iran’s northern borders with Azerbaijan and Armenia, a new hotbed of military conflict developed in the post-Soviet era. Of course, this is about the unresolved Karabakh issue, the two conflicts that took place there from 1991 to 1994, 2016, and 2020, as well as the ongoing provocations across the line of contact.

Given the accomplishments of the domestic military-industrial complex, Iranian air defenses undoubtedly have a certain advantage over some nations in the region, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Syria, Qatar, the KSA, and even Turkey, which is a NATO member. Nonetheless Iranian missile and air defense systems are unlikely to be more advanced than those of Israel, let alone the United States, in terms of technology.

Turkey started paying more attention to import substitution and modernizing the country’s military-industrial complex throughout the years of President Recep Erdoğan’s rule. Ankara was able to supply the army and navy’s weaponry with 80% of its own manufacturing thanks to this strategy for boosting the country’s independence. The development and manufacture of Turkey’s Baykar Bayraktar Kızılelma reconnaissance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Hisar surface-to-air missile and SIPER air defense missile, TCG Anadolu with unmanned combat aerial vehicles on board, Altay tank, BMC Kirpi, etc. are all being observed around the world.

The Turkish government holds regular events practically every day to showcase the aforementioned and additional products of the military-industrial complex, especially during current election campaigning days. Some of the military equipment on display in Turkey might still be purely for show, and it will take some time before testing and real breakthrough is made. Even so, Turkey is making an effort to keep up with Iran and its neighbors in terms of the military-industrial complex.

There is always hope for the army because of the generals’ faith in their own air defense systems and airspace control forces. However, public statements frequently don’t match reality (or don’t match it completely), which can further the goals of misleading the direct and potential enemy or fostering diplomacy during the negotiation process.

Anyway, Iran is expanding its military-technical cooperation with Russia, China, and India to produce air defense systems in all circumstances, keeping up with new advancements, and testing them not only on army ranges but also in combat theaters, where it takes part in varying degrees.

Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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