Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Qeshm Island Analysis

Qeshm Island Analysis

***Revised and Updated - October 25th 2010***

Strategically placed, the large island of Qeshm controls a commanding view of the Straits of Hormuz. Unlike many other islands in the Persian Gulf, Qeshm maintains a sizable resident civilian populace in several towns. As of October 2010, plans are in the works to build a bridge from the Iranian mainland to the island.

Fair-quality imaging is only available for the eastern half of the island.

As Always, click to enlarge images

The garrison for Qeshm island is unknown, though it has been reported that in 2000 US satellites observed the garrisoning of a brigade of IRIN marines on the island - "with supporting artillery and SAMs, reinforcing Qeshm Island where many mobile anti-ship missiles were already located." (Defense-Update)

Naval Base
Facing the straits of Hormuz on the southern coast of the Island is a naval compound with a fairly significantly protected port (compared to other islands).

Naval base shown in red

Air defense is restricted to two-three Zu-23-2's, though there is another possible AAA site along side the main road into the compound, though if it ever was anything, it appears abandoned and possibly being used as a trash dump as of December 2003.

The naval presence at this port is restricted to large large amounts of high-speed patrol boats. Those in the water appear to be of a mixed variety, including MIL style boats. On land, next to the docks are number of extremely basic designs - being identifiable by their blue color.

Positioned next to the inlet that forms the port is a significant hardened shelter - at least 40 x 50 m - though probably larger. Notably though, the hardened shelter does not actually appear to lead into the water, so it could not be used to store assets (such as small submarines) in ready to launch conditions. Beyond the main entrance, there also appears to be two possible auxiliary entrances.

The general compound appears to be in some sort of state of construction, though this may just be the effect of building on a desert island.

Launch Zone 1
These smallish compounds are most likely basing zones for Iran's large numbers of AShM's that are critical to the strategy of controlling the Persian Gulf. It includes several revetments facing the Straits of Hormuz, two clusters of hardened shelters and several small outbuildings.


Launch Zone 2
Also likely serving the same purpose, this zone only features a series of revetments facing the Persian Gulf, though they are located behind a sizable hill meaning they would have to have independent targeting stations and necessitate firing at a high angle.

A view of the Persian Gulf - illustrating the hill in front of the revetments.

Air Defense Site
Located at the north-east section of the island just west of the city of Qeshm. Assets include several Zu-23-2's which ring the compound and a possible HAWK SAM site, though it's possibly a Skyguard site (the more unlikely of the two).

"Hormuz Straits Come into Focus as Gulf Tensions Mount". Colonel David Eshel. Defense Update.

Kish Island Analysis

Kish Island Analysis

***Revised and Updated: November 14th 2010***

Kish island is a major tourist and commerce hub in the Persian Gulf, compared to the other islands there is a substantial civilian population.
***As Always, Click to Enlarge Images***

Early-Warning/Surveillance and Communication Hub
Located adjacent to the northern side of the airport on the center of the island, this site is both the center for the Islands air defense assets as well as serving as a hub for military communication and surveillance of the Gulf.

These sites were built as part of the 'Peace Ruby' project in the 1968-1971 time period as an effort by the US to supply Imperial Iran with a AC&W (aircraft control and warning) capability in the Persian Gulf. They were built to supplement the earlier 'Spellout' system built from Mashhad to Tabriz to provide radar coverage over the Soviet Union. Both systems were later integrated together under project 'Peace Net'.

Here is one of the sister sites located in Bandar Jask, as seen during the Velayat-89 wargames.

The two radomes originally housed either the AN/FPS-88 or AN/FPS-100/113 radars. However, what they hold now is unknown, it's extremely unlikely that they hold the original systems, especially following the IIAF's dissatisfaction with the system in the humid Persian Gulf, even before the revolution.

In addition to the radar network, the next component that came under project 'Peace Ruby' were the troposcatter communication antennas that can be found just north of the geodesic radomes. These provide direct LOS-communication to terminals in Bandar Abbas, Bandar Bushehr and Bandar Jask.

Both are visible here:

Surround the central location are four AAA positions, most likely Zu-23-2s. These are somewhat unique in that they have well-built up individual positions complete with revetments and small storage buildings. They are linked together with fairly significant pathways indicating they could be networked together much like the Zu-23-2 subtypes seen elsewhere. On the other hand, these might just be paths.

Airport AAA
Running along the south-east perimeter of the airport are several additional AAA sites similar to those described above, each have a concrete pad for the gun, several small buildings, surrounded by an earthen revetment. However, three of the seven sites are without a doubt abandoned, and the other three appear in a questionable state of readiness. However this could also be a function of poor imagery.

Vacant Skyguards
There are two additional empty SAM/AAA positions on Kish, one roughly kitty-korner to the north-east corner of the runway and another one ~250 m east of the runway. While these cannot be confirmed as Skyguard sites since they are empty, it is the most logical explanation given the arrangements of gun pads in traditional 'A' format characteristic of Skyguard sites. It is possible that in addition to the 35 mm guns, the Rapier SAM was also present.

These sites also strongly resemble those on Khark island that were previously unidentified.

"The Philco-Ford Peace Ruby Project" Joe Salute Photo Gallery

"Air Defense Command and Radars"

Google Earth

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lavan Island Analysis

Lavan Island
Lavan island is, like Khark and Sirri, one of Iran's main oil terminals. It is located just west of Kish island and south of Gavbandi. It should be noted that google earth only provides detailed imagery to half of the island so this analysis only contains detailed observations from the eastern half.
As Always, Click to Enlarge

Air Defense
Lavans only observable defense from threats comes from their anti-air capabilities, though there is no doubt a small garrison of troupes to man these weapons and provide security.
Surrounding the oil facilities is a network of AAA guns similar to that on Abu Musa, a rough circle alternating between 23 mm and 35 mm guns. Also as with Abu Musa they appear unconnected to any guidance system.
West of this position is an abandoned HAWK SAM battery though it still appears to be in good condition and is complete with spots for AAA and contains several subterranean storage bunkers.
Continuing along the westward-leading road into the half of the island that is without detailed imagery one can see two more AD sites. These appear to be Skyguard 35mm sites, although their size and long 'wing' layout makes it possible, though unlikely, they are SA-5 Gammons.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Khark Island Analysis

Khark Island

***Updated: Revised and Updated: November 12th 2010***

Khark island is a central terminal of Iranian oil and has a long history history in warfare, from its occupation in 1856 during the Anglo-Persian war, up until its near complete destruction in the Iran-Iraq war, the island is a valuable target both to attack and to defend.
***As Always, Click to Enlarge Images***

Northern Compound
Located just west of the small-swampy body of water on the northern end of the island, this compound is comprised primarily of bunkers, pointing to it's use as a storage facility.

The bunkers are of conventional Iranian design, built out of concrete in the same manner as hardened shelters, and then covered with dirt.

A number of revetments can also be found within the compound, a small number (2) are occupied with buildings, but more (4) are vacant.

HAWK Battery
Just south of the Northern Compound is a HAWK SAM battery on one of the few high-points on the island. The compound may also serve as the central military garrison for the island given the large number of buildings not normally associated with a HAWK battery alone.

This site is atypical compared to many Iranian HAWK sites in that it is composed of a full battery of six M192 launchers rather then the half-strength batteries often (though by no means always) found at Iranian HAWK sites.

Empty SAM Sites
These empty SAM sites are likely a legacy of the Iran-Iraq war when Khark was a frequent target for Iraqi fighter-bombers who aimed to put the strategic oil hub out of commission.

Khark Island itself is ringed by several empty sites that are unidentified and match no known Iranian SAM configuration. It's possible that sites included 35 mm AAA at one time because of the presence of AAA revetments that match typical Skyguard deployments. The most likely canidate is the HQ-2 because of the scale of their use during the war as a replacement to already-existing air defense measure. Although they are typically deployed in "flower" patterns, it's possible they were reorganized to better "focus" their threatened areas onto suspected Iraqi attack paths rather then present 360 degrees of coverage.

Just north of the island, in the small strip of land of that comprises the Kharko Wildlife Refuge, there are two possible HQ-2 sites that, while not positively identifiable, resemble the more traditional flower-layout of HQ-2 sites found elsewhere.

Naval Assets
In two of the small harbors on the eastern side of the Island are several military vessels.

These include ~30 high-speed patrol boats (HSPBs) along with four larger, but unidentifiable patrol boats in the northernmost harbor on the eastern side.

While on the southernmost harbor is a missile boat that dimensionally matches the Thondar, but is carrying missiles that are significantly skinner and mounted significantly further forward then the Noors on the Thondar.

Google Earth

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Naval Weapons - Anti-Ship Missiles - The Kowsar, Noor and Raad

The information in the section is currently being reviewed and updated and should not be taken as being 100% accurate. - October 9th 2010

Anti-Ship Missiles

Kowsar ASM
The Kowsar is the lightest of the 3 main ASM’s in the Iranian arsenal, being able to be launched from either land on mobile platforms, or from sea from the missile version of the IPS-16 fast attack craft (FAC). It comes in two main variants with a third in development.

The first model is the Kowsar-1 and is identical to the Chinese C-701. Being the lightest of the missiles, it is not intended to engage targets with displacements greater then 180 tons of displacement meaning that the targets in theory would be limited to amphibious landing craft and auxiliary support craft.(1) However, in 2006, Hezbollah was able to deploy a C-701 successfully against the INS Hanit, a corvette with roughly 10000 tons of displacement, in other words, a craft 5 times as large as the acceptable target.(2) The warhead is fairly conventional, with 29 kg of armor piercing high explosive. Guidance during the boost stage consists of inertial navigation which consists of calculating the approximate position of the target. Unlike other ASM’s, the Kowsar-1 does not climb to enter a cruise phase after launch, but rather remains at a fairly constant height of about 15 meters. Once it enters the immediate vicinity of the target, it switches over to TV guidance which would then have to be manually guided onto the correct target.(3) The TV guidance can be replaced with an infrared seeker.
Kowsar 1
• Range: 25 km
• Length: 2.5 m
• Missile Weight: 100 kg
• Warhead: 29 kg
• Speed: Mach .8
• Guidance:
o Cruise Phase: INS
o Terminal Guidance: TV Imaging, IR

The second model, the Kowsar-2 is physically identical to the Kowsar-1, however the difference comes in the terminal guidance. The limiting factor of the Kowsar-1 was the TV or IR seeker which meant that the operator would have to stay with the missile the whole way until the target, which in turn meant that its usability on anything else besides a stationary launcher would be unfeasible. This meant that the operators were increasingly vulnerable to counterattacks from all angles. The solution to that was to replace the TV/IR seeker with a ‘millimetre-wave radar’ which is a type of active homing radar that is activated in the terminal phase and automatically scans for the target, allowing the operator to leave the area once the missile is fired, this then allows the missile to be fired from platforms like the upgraded IPS-16. (4)

Kowsar 2
• Range: 25 km
• Length: 2.5 m
• Missile Weigh: 100 kg
• Warhead: 29 kg
• Speed: Mach .8
• Guidance:
o Cruise Phase: INS
o Terminal Guidance: Millimetre-wave radar
• Alterations
o Replacement of terminal guidance with active radar

Noor ASM

The Noor is the bigger brother to the Kowsar. It is the most common missile in the IRGCN’s arsenal and is found on land based launchers, the Thondar and Kaman class missile boats as well as most larger IRIN vessels such as the Alvand and Mowj.
It comes in sets of 4 on each of the respective ships, while two can be fired from the Mi-17 and the F-4, while 4 can be allegedly carried on the Su-24, although no pictures of the latter have been unearthed. Like, the Kowsar, it also comes in two main variants, with a third in development. It is in the same class as the more famous Excocet missile.

The Noor-1, is copy of the C-801, the precursor to the C-802. The larger 165 kg warhead as compared to the Kowsar, means that it is most useful against frigates, cruisers and destroyers such as the ‘Oliver Hazard Perry’ and ‘Ticonderoga’ class of ships found in the USN 5th fleet that patrols the Persian Gulf. The largest ship sunk ever successfully sunk, albeit a test, has 10,000 tons of displacement, which is 2000 pounds greater then the Ticonderoga cruiser, the most formidable of the US destroyers. In the early ‘90’s, Iran received 200 C-801’s along with 8 launchers, at that point Iran began to reverse engineer them under the name “Tondar”, eventually it morphed into the Noor-1 project. In the late ‘90’s, Iran adapted them to fire from an F-4. The guidance and flight profile is presumably the same as the C-802. After cruising speed of mach .9 is achieved through a boost motor, it flies at 20-30 meters cruising altitude. Inertial guidance, as with the Kowsar, guides the missile to the target. When entering terminal phase, the two seeker systems activate, the first is the monopulse active radar much like the radar in the Kowsar, the second is an IR seeker that was originally squeezed into the large housing of the original missile as an after market addition, however its usefulness soon led it to become standard equipment. A sharp drop then happens, from 20-30 metres to 5-7 meters above the sea level, maintained by the radio or laser altimeter. This has the advantage of making it near invisible to the target ship because it is below the detection range, especially combined with the integrated jamming capabilities and low radar signature. The missile is driven with kinetic energy through the hull where a delayed fuze allowing the missile to explode within the target vessel. (5)(6)

Noor 1
• Range: 40 km
• Length: 6.5 m
• Missile Weight: 715+ kg
• Warhead: 165 kg
• Speed: .9 mach
• Guidance: Inertial in cruise with monopulse active radar and IR Seeker in terminal

The Noor-2 replaced the original solid fuel rocket of the Noor-1 with a much more powerful turbojet. However the actual range gained is somewhat contentious, some use set figure of 120 km found on the C-802(on which the Noor-2 is a loose copy of). However some cite the domestic modifications to the Microturbo TRI 60-2 powerplant as evidence that the range was extended, and in 2006, during the ‘Blow of Zolfaqar’ wargames, commanders were quoted as saying it was 200 km. However the latter number is cast into doubt when the rest of the article mentions that the missile was only ever fired from warships, whereas in 1997, the Noor-1 was tested from an F-4. (7) The most likely range is somewhere around 170 km as it fits in line with the upgrades and domestic production of the turbojet, under the name of Tolloue 4 and 5.(8) Although the missile is overall lighter then the Noor-1 due to reduction in the solid fuel, the warhead remains the same packing the same punch, as do the targeting mechanisms remain unchanged. There are several key changes however. First, in the terminal phase, an upgraded altimeter allows the missile to hug the water closer, staying 3-5 meters above the surface. Second, the option of having a ‘pop-up’ attack pattern was also introduced by Chinese partners in 2006. A ‘pop-up’ pattern involves an immediate jump by the missile in the last few seconds allowing the missile to dive deep into the deck of the target. Third is the introduction of manoeuvring algorithms to make it harder for active ship defences to stop the missile. (9)

Noor 2
• Range: 170 km (140-200 km possible)
• Length: 6.5 m
• Missile Weight: 715+ kg
• Warhead: 165 kg
• Speed: .9 mach
• Guidance
o Cruise: Inertial
o Terminal: DM-3BMonopulse active radar and IR Seeker
• Alterations
o Turbojet engine
o Lower altitude in terminal phase
o Introduction of manoeuvring and ‘pop-up’ attack options

Raad ASM

The largest of Iran’s anti ship missiles, the Raad also has the longest range. It can be fired from a multitude of platforms including static defences, self-propelled tracked vehicles, presumably delivered from North Korea, or from a truck, much like the ones seen launching Kowsars.(10) Developed from the body of the Chinese HY-2 Silkworm, the Raad, however, has seen many improvements most prominently in the seeker and propulsion. The first of the changes include replacing the conical scanning radar and IR imaging with the "brains” of the Noor missile (DM-3B radar) with the end result that the missile becomes of skimming the sea at about 3-5 meters, compared to 8 of the HY-2, a substantial amount when considering a targets countermeasures. It also means that it will be capable of last minute evasive maneuvers and execute a ‘pop-up’ attack on the deck of the target. Although, they will be notably harder with a missile with the aerodynamics of the 3,000 kg missile compared to the 715 kg Noor. It undoubtedly presents other difficulties of meshing the two systems, but they have presumably been fixed due to successful tests. (11) The second main alteration is engine. Public perception is that the Raad is powered by the Tolou-4, the same powerplant as in the Noor. However this is intuitively unlikely given that the Tolou-4 was designed to propel a much smaller (715 kg) missile. Another indicator is looking at the extremely prominent ducts on the Raad compared to the extremely recessed ducts on the Noor. Rather, the more likely candidate is the Tolou-5 upgrade which is described as being much more powerful then its predecessor, although it was only in the prototype stage in 2005, meaning it would have had to of progressed extremely fast for them to appear in the 2007 wargames.(12)
Other then the above modifications, the Raad acts very much like the HY-2 from which it was derived, it is fired with the help of a solid rocket booster, quickly climbing to 1,000 meters, then descending to slightly less then 20 meters for cruising under inertial guidance. When, in terminal phase the active radar is switched on, and the missile descends to about 4 meters to skim the surface of the water and eventually strike the target. Packed with over 300 kg of high explosive in a shaped charge, it is designed for use against the massive destroyers of western fleets. (13) Meanwhile, the 360 km range would literally leaving no part of the gulf untouched.

• Range: 360 km
• Length: 7.48 m
• Missile Weight: 2,998 kg
• Warhead: 315 kg
• Speed: .8 mach
o Guidance: Inertial in cruise, DM-3BMonopulse active radar and possibly IR seeker in terminal.

Other missiles

Navigating Irans inventory of equipment is metaphorical minefield of what exists and what only exists as prototypes, and what is rhetoric. Consequently there are a few missiles which may or may not exist depending on whom you talk to. The biggest example of this is the anti-ship missile which was recently announced this month. It was announced by “experts from the Iranian Armed Forces in charge of the project” as an air-to-ship missile weighing 500 kg (presumably the whole missile, not just the warhead) and having a range of 110 km, and being radar guided. Whatever this missile is, its roughly in the same class as the Noor, although having shorter range. Some think it is just another test or variation of the Noor missile, but if this were true it would have to definitely another version due to the dramatic reduction in weight( change of 200 kg) with a similar reduction in range(change of 60 km). Logically it could just be the Noor with a smaller fuel load, leading to both a reduction in weight and range. The only purpose though would be more efficient transportation by the weapons carrying platform, most likely and F-4 or Su-24, although it could have been specifically designed for an F-5 as a normal Noor may have been thought to be too large.

(1) AMI International Vessel Type Definitions
INS Hanit damage revealed for the first time
China Aids Irans Tactical Missile Program Jane’s Defence Weekly Nov 17th 2004
“C-801 YJ-1 / YJ-8 (Eagle Strike) CSS-N-4 SARDINE” Federation of American Scientists August 10th 1999
CHINESE ARMS EXPORTS TO IRAN By Bates Gill MERIA MidEast Review of International Affairs Volume 2, No. 2 May 1998
Iran Test Fires New Cruise Missile Iran Focus 4/05/06
AIO Tolloue 4 and 5 Janes Defence Weekly March 23rd 2009
Iran Naval Missiles Iran Military Forum April 21st 2007,7604.20.html
Ra’d Cruise Missile ISNA No date Accessed and translated via,7604.20.html
(12) Ibd
AIO Tollou 4 and 5 (Iran), Power Plants
C-201 / HY-2 / SY-1 CSS-N-2 / CSS-C-3 / SEERSUCKER” Federation of American Scientists

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lesser Tunb Island Analysis

Lesser Tunb

***Revised and Updated - October 29th 2010***

Lesser Tunb is located about halfway between Abu Musa and the south-western tip of Qeshm and about 13 km west of Greater Tunb. Along with Abu Musa, the Tunb islands are dispute by the UAE, but are currently controlled by Iran. Lesser Tunb has no regular civilian inhabitants with only a military garrison, no doubt maintained because of its strategic location between two major shipping lanes.

As Always, Click to Enlarge Images

Exact garrison composition is unknown. However, it does include at least several D-30 artillery pieces which can be found near the center of the island adjacent to a long line of hardened shelters. The garrison also likely includes AShM's.

The small size of the port limits naval assets to patrol and missile boats. In available imagery, only several small HSPB's are present.

Fortifications - Bunkers and Hardened Shelters
There are four main sections of bunkers / hardened shelters on the Island. Starting on the north of the island, there are two bunkers located in a copse of trees facing north. The red-colored earth indicates relatively recent construction. Key features include what are most likely ventilation shafts on the roof of the shelters.

Further south, next to the D-30 artillery, are a substantial number of bunkers dug into the side of the small ridge running east-west. These appear to serve the revetments that are located adjacent to the bunkers, likely storing ammunition, additional guns, or AShMs.

Immediately to the west of the previous complex are several more entrances that are of such a scale that it is unlikely that they are simple hardened shelters like on the north of the island, and are much more likely to be actual complexes with living quarters, though at this point, this is only conjecture.

The final complex is the most interesting by far. Located south of the previous complex, alongside the south-eastern coast is an underground complex under construction (as of October 2006), affording us an excellent view of the internal layout of an Iranian island bunker. Overall the facility is laid out in the shape of a large 'X'. There are five apparent points of entry/exit. Presumably one in each of the legs of the 'X' as well as an additional two-door entryway on the north-western side. By 'two-door' i mean that there are actually two separate shorter passages leading out from the same entrance point to the main bunker. The same type of engineering has also been seen at the mysterious Qom nuclear facility. The presumed goal of this would be to defend against attempts to bomb the entrances/exits in order to lock the inhabitants inside. The purpose of this facility could be anything, from cruise missile storage to living quarters. The one thing that is for sure though is that it raises the possibility that bunkers on other islands could also be connected in such a manner.

Air Defense
Air defense on Lesser Tunb island is restricted to Zu-23-2 AAA positions, both occupied and empty scattered across the island.

Imagery via Google Earth

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sirri Island Analysis

Sirri Island Analysis

***Revised and Updated - October 25th 2010***

Sirri island located approximately 45 km west of Abu Musa island in the Persian gulf. It is slightly smaller then Abu Musa, is less fortified and has established oil infrastructure.

As Always, Click to Enlarge

There is only one built up on area on the island, a bunker complex (under construction as of May 2003 when the imagery dates from) located on the south-western part of the Island. Nine different entrances are visible, indicating 9 individual hardened shelters, though they could all be interconnected.

Air Defence
Air defense on the island is provided by several guns, mostly, if not all 35 mm, though some are possibly 23 mm - positive ID being impossible due to poor image quality. A possible Skyguard radar site is visible just just south of the westerly end of the runway. Though the image quality is poor, it is possible to make out two 35 mm guns in the traditional 'V' shape of a Skyguard setup.

Two 35 mm guns on the eastern side of the Island, near the end of the runway.

Possible AAA near the western end of the runway.

Possible Skyguard site

On the far west side of the island, there is a cluster of buildings as well as an empty AAA site and revetments. This has likely military purpose, but is also possible abandoned, or in disuse.

There is also a broadcast tower - betrayed by it's long shadow - near the north of the island; this isn't a military-exclusive piece of equipment, but it might be.

Imagery Via: Google Earth