Saturday, July 30, 2011

IRIAF Flight Patches

Due to the fragmentary and incomplete nature of this page, the badges are organized by aircraft (F-4, F-5, F-14) rather then by organization (TAB or TFS)

Wing Patches - Wing patches indicate a pilots ability to fly a certain type of aircraft. They are typically worn on the upper right sleeve, though they can also be seen on the upper left sleeve. Designs often vary by TAB or Squadron but do not appear to be set-in-stone and sometimes vary.

TAB/TFS Patches - Patches that indicate which tactical fighter squadron or air base a pilot belongs to are usually worn on the right breast. These are, of course, unique though some squadrons do not have an assigned patch.

McDonnell Douglas F-4D/E

Wing Patches
1) Features traditional "Spooky" design. This style is worn by F-4 pilots from TAB-9 in Bandar Abbas.
2) Generic F-4 wing-patch
3) Line drawing of F-4D on red background. Worn by F-4 pilots from TAB-3, squadron unknown.
4) No further details

TAB/TFS Patches
1) No further information
2) No further information
3) TAB or TFS patch of unit based in Hamedan (TAB-3).
4) Squadron patch of the 91st TFS bsed in Bandar Abbas; features a shark.
5) Squadron patch of the 11th CCT. The 11th CCT is based in TAB-1 Mehrabad and is tasked with advanced weapons training. Patch features a mother and baby tiger.
6) Squadron patch of the 61st TFS based out of Bushehr. Date unknown and as such, may not be recent.

Northrop F-5E/F

Wing Patches
1&3) Examples of two different styles of wing patches worn by officers from the 21st TFS.
2) No further information
3) No further information. The different colour (red vs blue) may indicate a certain level of flight experience.

TAB/TFS Patches
1) Squadron patch for the 21st TFS based in Tabriz. A patch with a black border indicates 1,000+ flight hours, while one without the border indicates 500+ hours.
2&3) Squadron patches for the IRIAFs aggressor adversary training. Implication of the different colour is unclear but may correspond to experience levels. Most likely TFS 41 or 42 at TAB-4 in Dezful.

Grumman F-14

Wing Patches
No further information on any of the patches. Like with the F-4 and F-5, one possible explanation for the different colours is differing flight hours. Alternately, it may correspond to different TAB/TFSs.

TAB/TFS Patches
Most of the patches seem based on original IIAF designs with the iconic "Tomcat" figuring prominently in the imagery. No further details on which patches correspond to which squadrons.

 Dassault Mirage F-1
In this case, the wing patch is worn on the left sleeve because the pilot is also qualified to fly the F-14 (whose patch is found on the right sleeve). No further information. 

Chengdu F-7

1) Combination of wing and squadron patch identifies this pilot as hailing from TAB-1s MiG-29 squadrons. Squadron patch features a swooping eagle.
2) TAB patch for MiG-29s. Has not been observed in service.
3) Has not been observed in service, thus may belong to 23rd or 24th TFS at TAB-2 in Tabriz.

Transport Aircraft
The 11th CH-47 squadron is based out of TAB-1 and is tasked with personnel transfer between bases as well as battlefield recovery of downed aircraft. 

Trainer Aircraft
***To be updated***

Unknown Patches

Imagery is mostly via screenshots of Youtube uploads from "FulcrumPilot" as well as patches for sale via auction sites (multiple sources). 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

US-Built Tanks in Foreign Service - Iran

This piece is actually relatively old. I wrote it a fair bit ago for another website; however, seeing as how this summer has been relatively unproductive so far, I figured I'd share it here as well:

US-Built Tanks in Foreign Service - Iran

Imperial Iran
Imperial Iran, ruled since 1941 by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, emerged in the first days of the cold war as a Western-ally with larger regional ambitions than its military could then support. This, combined with the Eisenhower doctrine which encouraged direct assistance to nations in order to help sway them away from communism, led Iran to turn towards America to mechanize their Army.

Before this the Imperial Iranian Army (IIA) relied primarily on light infantry and pack animals to move their forces. Procurements following WWII included 15 M-4 Sherman tanks ordered in 1950 and 100 M-24 light tanks in 1953. These would be supplemented by an unknown number of M-36B1's purchased at an equally unknown time. The M-4s would later go on figure prominently in the 1953 coup against then-prime-minister Mohammad Mosaddeq (fig. 1). Despite these modest advances, the IIA still largely lacked mechanization.
Fig. 1: M-4s in front of the National Police HQ following the coup against Mossadeq (MSNBC/AP)

After 1953 Iran would grow closer to the United States and, considering both the Shah's ambitions and his growing oil revenue, it should have been no surprise that the newest generations of Patton tanks were on the top of the Shah's shopping list. This included 400 ex-US M-47s in 1957 and 260 M-48A1s in 1960. In fact, rapid mechanization of the IIA was of such importance to the Shah that all through 1964 US state department papers touched on the issue numerous times, saying in June: “We understand that the Shah's greatest area of concern at present is in the replacement of tanks.” and during a visit by the Shah to the US, Robert Komer of the National security council staff wrote to President Johnson that: “Though we've kept telling the Shah that his real problems are internal not external, and that reform is first on the agenda, he keeps reverting to the military toys he loves. We've convinced him there isn't much chance of Soviet attack, so now he's talking up an Arab threat as his excuse. His main interest just now is replacing his aging M-47 tanks. M-48A3s like the Israelis want would be cheaper and more than ample, but he wants our new M-60s.” Iran would later go on to order 460 brand-new M-60A1's, the first of which began arriving in March of 1965. The IIA also operated a number, thought to be around a hundred, of M-41 light tanks during the 1960's-1970's.

To support these tanks the IIA also attempted to maintain parallel infrastructure. In 1970 Bowen-McLaughlin-York Inc. built a production plant in the Khuzestan province in south-western Iran for the purpose of upgrading Iran's M-47s and M-48s. Once this plant was online, all M-47s were upgraded to the M-47M standard which was only used by Iran and it's neighbor, Pakistan. The upgrade involved replacing the assistant driver who sat in the bow next to the driver, with additional main-gun ammunition, as well as importing several features from the M-60A1 such as the fire-control elements and the AVDS-1790 diesel engine, the latter giving the rear of the tank a distinct ‘oversized’ look compared to early model M-47s. Iranian M-47's have both cylindrical and ‘T’ shaped muzzle breaks. The M-48A1's were meanwhile upgraded, to M-48A5 status which involved replacing the 90 mm gun with the 105 mm M68 from the M-60A1 as well as the associated fire-control elements. It is unclear as to when and in what order these tanks were upgraded.

Near the tail end of its lifespan, Imperial Iran began to heavily shift toward the UK for its armor needs, ordering 707 Chieftain MBTs in 1971, and 1000 Scorpion light tanks in 1976. They also provided funding for the “Shir 2” program which was intended for Iran and later evolved into the Challenger tank.

The Islamic Revolution
When the Islamic Revolution of 1979 expelled the monarchy and replaced it with a theocracy hostile toward the west, it was estimated that 240 M-47Ms, 160 M-48A5s and all of the M-60A1s remained in service, although many of the remaining early-model Pattons remained in storage. However, in the summer of 1980, with the war with Iraq still unforeseen, the newly overhauled Islamic Republic of Iran Army (IRIA) was suffering from all the ills of an army caught in revolution; purges, desertion and simple negligence had reduced the once mighty army to only around 50% fighting strength.

The War with Iraq
In September of 1980, on the eve of war with Iraq, the IRIA was still in poor shape, suffering from an acute lack of organization. When Iraqi tanks crossed the border on September 22nd, US-made tanks, along with Chieftains were some of the first sent to repulse the attack. Specifically, the 16th armored division based out of Qazvin, were equipped with three brigades of M-60A1 MBTs, while 1 brigade of the 77th mechanized infantry division, located near the border of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, were equipped with M-47M medium tank. Later, the 88th armored brigade, headquartered in the Sistan-Baluchistan province on the border with Pakistan, would be expanded to a full division and equipped with Patton tanks, though at the beginning of the war it was only equipped with Chieftains. The 37th armored brigade in Shiraz in south-eastern Iran was also equipped with Patton tanks, mostly M-60A1's, but with a number of M-47's as well. A number of M-36B1 and M-24 tanks were also deployed with the 151st infantry battalion under the 92nd armored division, though in a purely secondary capacity. The older tanks, around 80 in total, were positioned at border forts around the Khorramshahr area, sometimes buried right up to the turret in order to act as pillboxes. It is possible other forts along the border had the same type of set-up as well.
Fig. 2: M-47M. Note the enlarged engine compartment which carries the AVDS-1790 as well as the T-muzzle break and the sand bags being used as appliqué armor. (Unknown)

Unfortunately outside of Iran, the war, despite spanning 8 years, having a death-count in the millions, and with intervention from large portions of the world, remains relatively unknown. To make this worse, the few works in English that have been written about the war are often blatantly false! Furthermore, what is available from the Iranian side is almost exclusively from the IRGC perspective, which, while interesting, doesn't really touch on the performance of US-made armor which was operated by the regular army.

In the first years of the war, Iran's Pattons saw the most use of the entire war, often playing instrumental roles in counterattacks and defensive operations. For instance, the first major counterattack by the Iranians was the Battle for Dezful, alternately called Operation Nasr, was launched on January 5th 1981 by the 1st and 3rd brigades from the 16th armored division, equipped with M-60A1 tanks. The 16th armored division, supported by contingents from the 92nd armored division (based out of the south-western province of Khuzestan), spearheaded a push aimed at breaking the siege of Abadan near the border. Facing the Iranians were the 9th Iraqi armored division, 5th mechanized infantry division, and the 31st independent infantry brigade. But perhaps most importantly, unbeknownst to the Iranians, this force had been reinforced by the Iraqi 12th armored division which had been shifted from elsewhere in order to recover from previous fighting. Following promising progress on the first day of the operation when the 1st and 3rd brigade from the 16th made significant headway, they were soon beset on 3 sides by the numerically superior Iraqi armored divisions who made quick work of the two brigades. The 16th armored division was decimated by the counter-attack, losing upward of 100 M-60 and Chieftain tanks to enemy fire while being forced to abandon many more. Though it should be noted that initial Iraqi claims of capturing more then 214 tanks are probably false.
Fig. 3: M-36B1 originally captured by Iraq during the 1980s only to be recaptured by US forces in 2003. Talk about having an adventurous life! (Geoff Walden)

At any rate, information about Patton performance during the war is scare. However, on a whole, performance seems to have been a mixed bag. The M-60A1 was a favored tank by Iranian tank commanders who valued its high mobility compared to the Chieftain whose engine was notoriously underpowered and temperamental in the desert heat. However, the main flaw of the M-60A1, and in fact, most of the tanks used in the war, was their vulnerability to anti-armor weapons. Iran's solution to this was to increase the amount of infantry support for armor maneuvers. However, the shift to a light-infantry dominated force by Iran was also a function of sheer lack of any armor to field.

This brings us to one the most enduring myths of armored combat during the Iran-Iraq war – that neither side could effectively use armor for maneuvers. While Iran undoubtedly was hampered by its lack of a coherent command and control organization, competing factions and political purges, the first days of the war saw large contributions by armored forces.

However as the war progressed and Iran begin to lose more and more tanks without a way to replace them, armored formations became a rare sight. Iran's stock of US-built tanks were hit no less hard then their main MBT, the Chieftain. Retired M-47's and M-48A5's that had been sitting in storage were quickly entered into service. Iran also sent out their procurement agents across the world with orders to buy up spare parts and anything at all related to their stocks of M-47's, M-48's and M-60's. While it is unsubstantiated, it is rumored that Iran purchased 80 M-48A3's from Greece, another 80 M-48A3s Vietnam and possibly more from elsewhere.
Fig. 4: One of the few available pictures of an IRIAA M-48A5. (Saff Magazine)

Iran emerged from the Iran-Iraq war with a shell of a military, in addition to the loss of hundreds of thousands of young men, their economy had been crippled, and combined with international isolation, the farthest possible option for the IRIA was to completely overhaul their army with brand new armor. Despite a modest procurement of T-72M1 and T-72S tanks from ex-Soviet states, the IRIA remained largely dependent on its pre-revolutionary stock of Western armor.

Post-war reorganization saw the 16th armored division with Chieftains, while the M-60A1s are most likely assigned to the 81st armored division in Kermanshah, as well as with an unknown mechanized infantry division. Meanwhile, the 77th mechanized infantry division on the border with Afghanistan still use the M-47M. The 88th armored, now a full division, use M-47M and M-48A5 tanks, favoring the latter.
Fig. 5: M-60A1 on manoeuvre during the Tondar-5 wargames in 2004. (FNA)

Surprisingly, Iran’s Pattons aren’t the only US-built tanks that are still in service. A number of “Korean-War era vintage” tanks are rumored to be deployed on Persian Gulf islands. This could a number of tanks including the M-4, or even the M-47. One possible location, as indicated by Google Earth imagery, is on the south west tip of Abu Musa Island. The island is located approximately halfway between Iran and the UAE and is a source of dispute between the two countries. While this is undoubtedly a strange role for a tank, they could be intended to repulse an amphibious attack to reclaim the island.

The Future
Though Iran's Patton tanks are undoubtedly obsolete, even by regional standards, they will continue to serve in the IRIA if only because there are no other replacements; this is in turn is due to a stagnant domestic industry and a reluctance to seek foreign assistance.

Almost no information is available about the current status of either the M-47M or the M-48A5. One of the few pictures of the M-47M shows it equipped with a pitifully small number of Kontakt-1 ERA bricks (~10 along either fender) along with a commercial security camera mounted on the turret with a length of metal pipe. This ad hoc ‘upgrade’ is most likely a local modification.
Fig. 6: M-47M in Mashhad (Jamjam)

On a more promising note, Iran has developed an upgrade for their M-60A1s called the “Samsam” which was first seen during Armed Forces Day 2010. Observable features of the upgrade includes roughly 54 Kontakt-1 type ERA bricks on the turret sides, two banks of four smoke-dischargers on either side of the turret and the addition of an EFCS-3 fire control system (the gunners sight is visible directly in front of commander’s cupola). At the left-rear of the turret is a mast-mounted laser warning receiver paired with dazzler/jammers on either side of the gun mantlet.

A different variant was shown at Sacred Defense Week 2010 and Armed Forces Day 2011 that featured ERA twice as thick as the normal K-1. While the ERA placement varies with each parade, it’s often sloppy with large areas across the frontal arc uncovered.
Fig. 7: Samsam - note the ERA brick thickness (M-ATF)

It is very likely that the Samsam is a development of their older M-60 upgrade program offered for export. While it lacks the ERA bricks and laser-warning system of the Samsam, Iran’s Ministry of Defense Export Catalogue does offer some insight on what other features exist, but are not readily apparent to the naked eye.

Specifically, this includes the replacement of the driver’s M-24 IR periscope which necessitated an IR searchlight fitted above the main gun, with a new night-driving system, probably belonging to the 2nd generation passive “Shabaviz-1/2” series manufactured by the Iran Electronics Industry (IEI). The 105 mm main gun is gyroscopically stabilized in both axis and is attached to the EFCS-3 fire-control system mentioned above. This system, manufactured by Fotona in Slovenia during the 1990s, while not ultra-modern, is a generational leap compared to anything else in Iran’s inventory. Because of this, the system has found itself being used not just in M-60A1 upgrades, but also with T-54/55, T-72, and Chieftain MBTs. It is manufactured, without a license, by IEI under the name “KAT-72”; a result of Fotona cutting relations with Iran following international sanctions. The EFCS-3 features a digital ballistic computer, 2nd generation night-sights, and a laser range-finder.

Widespread adoption of these upgrades is desperately needed if Iran’s M-60s are to remain at all relevant in the years to come. The United States demonstrated that modern M-60A3s with new fire-control-systems, gun stabilization and ammunition could still keep up with early-generation M1s during Operation Desert Storm. Unfortunately for Iran it is more then likely that projects like the Samsam are limited to technology demonstrators or prototypes and have not yet been applied on a wide scale. However, since any image of IRIA armor is rare, let alone images of upgraded ones, definitive conclusions cannot be made one way or another.
Fig. 8: Iran's 105 mm APFSDS used with the M68 gun (IIPA)

The basic Patton design also serves as the basis for Iran’s indigenous tank design, the Zulfiqar. (see separate entry on this blog) The first incarnation, the Zulfiqar-1 is heavily based on the M-48A5, with the hull being almost a direct copy, the only difference being a thicker M-60A1 style glacis plate. Internally, the configuration is also similar, with many of the controls, including the turret traversing handle and backup manual ballistic data calculator taken directly from the M-48A5. The later Zulfiqar-2/3, though a radical departure from the first model, still can’t completely hide its heritage. The hull has been lengthened (with one additional road-wheel) and now features side-skirts, but is still fundamentally based on the Patton design.

Iran has also shown an affinity for the AVDS-1790 series engine which has been reported to have been upgraded to 1,000 hp and can be found in the Zulfiqar prototypes as well as possibly in the Mobarez upgrade program for Chieftain tanks.

Global Security
Military Photos Forums
Iran Defense Forum
ACIG Database
SIPRI Arms Database
Immortal: A Military History of Iran and It's Armed Forces
Shahyad - “Armor in the Imperial Iranian Army”
State Department Archive
Military History Magazine
Osprey Books
The AFV Database
Google Earth

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Was I wrong about the INS Hanit?

In my recent post about Iranian anti-ship missiles, I discussed the debate surrounding the attack on the Hanit corvette by Hezbollah during the 2006 war. I've usually subscribed to the belief that it was a C-701/Kosar that was used because it would account for the small amount of damage as well as be more plausible from a logistic perspective. This is despite the common claim that it was the C-802/Noor.

However, it seems I'll have to eat my words.

The first missile fired during the encounter missed the Israeli ship and hit an a civilian freighter. Up until now I assumed that this ship has been operating in the relative vicinity of the Hanit because a decoyed terminal seeker would be the best explanation for why the missile hit it instead of the Hanit.

However I've recently come across some information that indicates that the freighter was actually 60 km out to sea - well beyond the range of any variant of the Kosar. Even the Hanit, patrolling at 16 km from shoreline is at the absolute maximum engagement range of some Kosar variants (around 15 km). A Kosar could have been fired in conjunction with a Noor, but that seems much more unlikely then multiple Noors being launched (if one believes in Occam's Razor).


Friday, July 15, 2011

Iran's Anti-Ship Missiles

 Iran's Anti-Ship Missiles

This is an updated version of a previous piece by this blog.

- Fajr-e Darya
- Kosar
- Nasr
- C-801
- C-802/Noor
- Harpoon
- C-201
- Raad

(also, my apologies if the footnotes are off, please point out any inconsistencies if you see them)

Fajr-e Darya (فجر دریا )
The Fajr-e Darya is a light anti-ship missile based off the Italian Sea Killer Mk. 2. The Sea Killer was designed by Italy's OTO Melara in the 1960s and was chosen as the primary surface-to-surface armament of the IIN's Alvand/Saam class frigates which would carry them in five-cell launchers. (1) They were also mounted on the IIN's BH-7 Mk. 5 hovercrafts which could carry four of them on their decks. They could also be fired in the air-to-surface role by Iran's AB-212s and ASH-3Ds. (2)  It is unclear exactly when Iran began to receive the Mk. 2 variant missiles since most sources peg development of the missile as continuing up through 1984. (3) It is generally accepted that Iran exhausted their stock of original Sea Killers during the Iran-Iraq war judging from dwindling deployment on surface vessels.
Fajr-e Darya  (Unknown)

The Sea Killer Mk. 2 features a solid-fuel booster and a solid-fuel sustainer motor housed in missile's narrow body. A large bulbous nose draws the eye and house the SAP warhead and guidance payload with active radar seeker. A set of four control surfaces are mounted in a cruciform configuration mid-body while the set of fins at the rear of the missile (ignoring the booster) are for stabilization. (4)

Fajr-e Darya test on IRINN ASH-3D (Unknown)
After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran is reported to have provided examples of the Sea Killer Mk. 2 to China which in turn reverse-engineered it into the FL-6 and then provided a production line to Iran under the name "Fajr-e Darya" (Dawn of the Sea).(5) The only external visual difference between the two missiles is the replacement of the active radar with an EO-seeker mounted in the nose. The Fajr-e Darya also features several unidentifiable objects on rear set of stabilizing wings. However lack of sufficient photographic evidence makes it impossible to tell whether these objects are also found on the Sea Killer Mk. 2. It is reported to have a range of 25 km and sea-skimming capability. (6) Both the ASH-3D and AB-212 should have the capability to carry two missiles.

Kosar (کوثر)
The Kosar family of light, sea-skimming anti-ship missiles (AShM) are license produced copies of the Chinese TL-10/C-701 missiles. The family is often said to have been developed in cooperation between Iran and China along with the C-704 (Nasr).(7) Others claim that the missile was developed by China specifically for Iran. (8) Both of these scenarios, while they cannot be verified, are more then believable. SIPRI reports that Iran purchased 40 of these missiles from China in 1998 with all of them being delivered or locally assembled between 2001 and 2004. (9) It is likely, since these numbers are so small, that this was only a test batch since we have seen such a large number of launch platforms being built in recent years.

All three known variants of the missile are lightweight models, designed to attack ships with a displacement in the "low hundreds" such as fast-attack craft and missile boats. Judging from the combat history of other missiles in their size class, another potential use would be against support vessels like minesweepers or landing-craft, as well as volley attacks against larger craft. (10) This last role is supported by their use on IPS-type fast-attack craft.

An unknown sub-type of the Kosar is the most likely culprit behind the 2006 attack by Hezbollah on the Corvette "Hanit" which killed for Israeli sailors. The small amount of damage sustained by the Hanit as well as relative ease of operation for Hezbollah with regard to the size of the launch cells. See this post for why this assumption is probably incorrect.

All three models share the same basic configuration with cruciform mid-body cropped-delta wings and aerodynamic control surfaces at the rear of the missile. Propulsion is provided by a two-stage, solid fuel rocket motor.

The flight profile is traditional: boosting to cruise altitude after launch where INS takes over and delivers to the missile to the target area where it turns on it's terminal seeker to search for a target at which time it descends to "sea-skimming" level (exact altitude unknown) for the final run to the target.

The Kosar is a copy of the TL-10A which was developed by China's Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation. This model can be identified by the TV seeker with a transparent dome in the nose of the missile as well as external control lines running from the control surfaces at the rear of the missile, to the guidance section further forward. The mid-body wings also have a shorter leading-edge then the C-701R (below).

Kosar - note the control lines and absence of installed seeker (Mehr News)
The TL-10 can be launched by sea (such as on the C-14), though potential air and coastal launch capability does exist.

Specifications: Kosar/TL-10A (11)
Length: 2.5 m
Diameter: 18 cm
Wingspan: 52 cm
Weight: 105 kg
Speed: .85 mach
Range: 3-15 km
Warhead: 30 kg semi-armour piercing (SAP)
Guidance: INS+TV
Hit Probability: 85%

  This missile substitutes a radar seeker for the TV camera in the TL-10A and is helicopter-launched. (12) Very little evidence of it's use in Iran. Local Iranian designation unknown.
TL-10B - Note the control lines and lack of TV-seeker

The Kosar-1 is a copy of the air-launched C-701T AShM (also known as the C-701KT) developed by the China Precision Machinery Import Export Company (CPMIEC). The missile is characterized by the TV-seeker in the nose, delta wings with a longer leading-edge then the TL-10A/B, and pop-out fins at the wing-tips. Unlike the Kosar/TL-10, the Kosar-1/C-701T is able to receive mid-course updates, allowing an operator to take over control of the missile. (13)

While intended as an air-launched system, the MODLEX entry indicates at least two types of coastal launchers exist. (14)
C-701T - Photograph is nearly identical to Modlex's publicity photos. Note the TV seeker and pop-out wing tips. (Australia Air Power)

Specifications: Kosar-1/C-701T (15)
Length: 2.50 m
Diameter: 18 cm
Weight: 100 kg
Speed: .8 mach
Range: 4-15 km
Warhead: 29 kg semi-armour piercing (SAP)
Guidance: INS+TV+operator command
Hit Probability:95%

This missile is a copy of the C-701R variant of the C-701 which sees the TV-seeker replaced with millimetre wave radar (mmW) and the removal of the pop-out fins on the wing-tips. These seekers tend to have good performance because they're able to provide high resolution, all weather capability and high resistance to countermeasures (16) The missile is also slightly longer and heavier then the Kosar-1/C-701T as well as a correspondingly longer range.
Kosar-3 launch from a coastal battery (Fars News)

Specifications: Kosar-3/C-701R (17)
Length: 2.68 m
Diameter: 18 cm
Weight: 120 kg
Speed: .78 mach
Range: 4-25 km
Warhead: 29 kg semi-armour piercing (SAP)
Guidance: INS+MMW radar
Hit Probability:95%

Nasr (نصر)
The Nasr is a copy of the Chinese C-704 which, along with the Kosar, is believed to be a jointly-developed and produced missile rather then just being a design purchased by Iran (like with the HY-2 for example). However, the family history is a bit more complicated then just that.

In the late 1990s Iran-Sino missile cooperation was reaching new height, including the transfer of several designs of missiles, but under pressure from the US they curtailed most of the cooperation (or at least the most visible programs) including the seizing of many parts of the C-802, forcing Iran to reverse engineer some of the parts. However, the US agreed that some of the shorter ranged missiles being jointly-produced did not fall under the reach of the agreement reached on halting missle sales; the Kosar was one of these missiles, the Nasr was probably another. (18)
Nasr-1 (Unknown)

One of the first references to the Nasr in particular came in 2004 when Jane's compared the newly unveiled Chinese TL-6 with the Nasr which the IAIO had already displayed brochures of. (19) Unfortunately, it's unclear exactly which pamphlets the author is talking about.

An old, now defunct, Modlex site advertises the Nasr as availble for export. It's unclear exactly when this site date's from, but it's possible it's from the mid-2000s. (20) Interestingly, in this entry, as well as in other various illustrations and mockups, the missile more closely resembles the TL-6 versus the C-704 (which, contrary to some observers beliefs, are different missiles) featuring non-folding wings. This may be what has led some to incorrectly hypothesize early on that the Nasr was a copy of the TL-6 and not the later C-704. Another explanation is that there might be different versions of the Nasr in the same way there are different versions of the Kosar,

Sometime during the 2000s the Nasr entered production because during Army Day 2008 we were treated to the first pictoral evidence of an actual Nasr/C-704 missile in Iranian service. These were not mock-ups, but actual production missiles. (21) Later in 2008, Fars News announced that the new missiles were being tested during naval wargames. (22)

In Spring 2010, Iran publically unveiled the Nasr with a visit by DM Vahidi to the inauguration of a production line of the missile. (23)

Note the S/N (Is. MFA)
Then, almost exactly a year later, in March 2011, the IDF intercepted a cargo ship, The Victoria, with cargo bound for the Gaza Strip. Aboard this ship was found, among numerous other crates of munitions, six Nasr missiles, complete with technical documentation, radars, and launching cells. (24) Like Hezbollah's potential use of Kosars, this would represent a generational leap in terms of capability for Gaza-based groups who have been largely reliant on crude rockets shaped from sugar and sheet metal. The nature of the launch cells also illustrate the potential danger to all the worlds navies presented by low-cost anti-ship missiles like this one which are nominally portable, able to be well hidden and fired surreptitiously from hidden locations. It's also worth noting the serial number and date of the manufacture. According to the cover of the technical documentation supplied along with the missiles, the serial of one of the missiles is "SA880805" and was produced in 1/15/1389 (March 2010) which places this missile produced in the batch immediately after the public showing in March 2010 (serials from this showing included SA880711 and SA880716). Also, if the serials are in any way, numerically continuous, then that would mean that Iran has quite a few Nasr's (even assuming the numbers don't go up directly from 0). Lastly, the naming conventions on the technical documentation suggests that the name "Nasr" is simply the name for the missile itself, with "C-704" being reserved for the entire system. For comparison, look to the Shahin missile which is the projectile belonging to the larger Mersad SAM system. Some have asserted that this is a false flag operation by Israel in order to justify further aggression against Iran, however there is absolutely no evidence of this as of yet.

The Nasr itself is a medium-weight anti-ship missile designed for use against ships with a displacement between 300 and 1500 tons which includes smaller missile boats up through corvettes like the Saudi Badr class and the UAE's MGB-62 class. (25) (26)

In it's design the Nasr can be described, in essence, as a scaled-up Kosar. It features the same basic configuration with a two-part solid-fuel motor, mid-body folding cruciform wings (though it should be mentioned that many drawings of the missile do not feature the folding aspect) and cruciform aerodynamic control surfaces at the rear of the missile with the warhead and guidance payload at the front of the missile. It is also fired from a cell that is visually very similar to the Kosar's.

The Nasr distinguishes itself from the Kosar in scale; the warhead is a 100 kg more and the range is 10 km greater then on the Kosar. Most importantly however, the millimeter wave radar has been exchanged for a centimetre wave radar which, while offering lower resolution, has a greater range then the mmW system.(27)

Nasr being tested aboard a C-14 (Borna News)
The missile has been seen tested on the C-14 fast attack craft and according to Vahidi shore batteries exist, likely self propelled like the Kosar, though the missiles being sent to Gaza indicate that they could just as easily be set up as a diffuse, semi-mobile/static system. Vahidi also asserted that the missile would soon be adapted for launch from helicopters and submarine. (28) Helicopter launch capability isn't that remarkable, but submarine-launch certainly is. It is unknown if there is a difference between the "Nasr" and the "Nasr-1", or if they are the same weapon.

Specifications: Nasr
Length: 3.5 m
Diameter: 28 cm
Weight: 350 kg
Speed: .8-.9 mach
Range: 8-35 km
Warhead: 130 kg
Guidance: INS + Radar homing
Hit Probability: 75%

The C-801 is the first of the YJ-8 AShM family that also includes Iran's C-802/Noor missile. They are often compared to the US's Harpoon and the French Exocet both in terms of overall configuration/design and capability.(29)

Some sources report that Iran began acquiring the C-801 in the late-'80s/early-'90s  and that by 1994, they had 200 of them. (30) However more generally reliable sources assert that Iran's acquisition of C-801 missiles came much later, specifically in March 1997 when Iran received an evaluation batch of 16 C-801Ks (air-launch variant). Testing over the next several months led Iran to conclude that while the missiles were generally inferior to the Harpoon they were still a good overall value; this in turn led to plans to purchase an additional 100 C-801Ks and negotiations for Iran to domestically produce the C-802K. (31)

Part of the reason that comparisons are often drawn between the Exocet and the C-801 is the almost identical dimensions between the two, same length, same diameter, same wingspan, same weight, same warhead weight. The missile body is a long, thin tube with four cruciform wings located set slightly behind the midpoint with aerodynamic control surfaces behind these. Powering the missile is a solid fuel rocket motor and, in the case of coastal and sea-launched variants, an additional solid-fuel booster which drops away after launch. The front of the missile contains both the warhead and guidance section which includes the INS as well as terminal-phase seeker. The terminal phase seeker is the same as on the Noor as well as the Raad; the DM-3B, as it is known in Iran, is described by Global Security as a "monopulse, high-frequency (probably J-band) terminal guidance radar seeker" which has "high anti-jamming capabilities."(32) (33)

Despite knowing that Iran did in fact order a substantial number of these missiles, the current operational status still remains unknown. Because China reneged on their delivery obligations to Iran after 1997 because of US pressure (see above) it's more then possible that only part of the 100 missiles ordered were delivered. The development of domestic tooling and production lines for the Noor would remove any incentive to devote more resources toward the C-801. While some have undoubtedly been expended in training and via attrition, it's likely Iran still maintains the remainder whatever they have left in storage.

While Iran is only known to have procured the air-launched version, they could also be adapted for coastal or naval launch by the addition of the booster. Some have also suggested that the C-801 is the basis for the Saqeb (also, Thaqeb/ثاقب ) which is Iran's reported SLCM. (34) (35)

The C-802 is a development of the Chinese C-801/YJ-8 AShM and serves as the primary anti-ship missile within the Iranian Armed Forces.
Noor on parade (SMM)

Following their experience with the C-801, Iran expressed their interest in producing the C-802K within Iran. These moves however would make far too much of an impression on the US's radar screen and in Fall of 1997 and early in 1998, Washington received assurances from the highest levels that Beijing had halted arms sales of the C-801 and C-802. (36) This forced Iran to reverse engineer the missing missile components and introduce their own production line for the missile, which they did two years later. (37) Over the course of the next several years, Iran began testing and integrating the missiles with their Persian-Gulf-based fleet of F-4Es and Su-24MKs. (38)
Air-launched C-802K (note the F-4E) (

It is similar to the C-801 is almost every way except for the substitution of an air-breathing turbojet engine in place of the solid-fuel sustainer motor. The turbojet is known in Iran as the Toloue-4 and is a copy of a motor produced by the French company "Microturbo SA". (39) The guidance section also features a datalink to allow for mid-course corrections. (40)

In cruise mode, the missile flies at 20 m ASL, but once it enters the terminal phase it descends to 5-7 m. (41)

Today, the missile is being mass produced and is carried by a lions-share of Iran's naval warfare platforms. This includes the air-launched C-802K (Qaem/قائم ) which can be carried by F-4s and Su-24s. Launch cells are also found on Alvand and Mowj class frigates, the Bayandor corvette, Kaman/SINA FACs and Thondar missile boats. Coastal launch variants are notable in that many are designed to operate covertly or can be disguised as civilian trucks. Moreover, equipping the launch trucks with basic surface-search radars also gives them a degree of mobility allowing them to operate without (or with less) support equipment.
Single cell launch vehicle - note the radar and camouflage

Double cell launch vehicle (IRNA)

Specifications: Noor (42)
Length: 6.38 m
Diameter: 36 cm
Weight: 715 kg
Speed:.8-.9 mach
Range:10-120 km
Warhead: 155 kg
Guidance: INS + Radar Homing
Hit Probability: 90%

Iran originally ordered a modest number of RGM-84A Harpoon AShMs from the US in the 1970s to fit to their stock of Combattante (Kaman/Sina) class FACs. (43) One of Iran's P-3s (it's unclear which one) was adapted to carry the Harpoon (AGM-84A) but there is no evidence that it was ever used in combat or is still used in this manner today. While Iran has no known supply route to obtain additional missiles, at least one Kaman-class FAC (P226) can still be seen on exercises armed with Harpoons rather then the more common Noor.
P226 armed with Harpoon AShMs (FNA)

Commonly identified as the "Silkworm", the C-201 Seersucker is the most well-known and infamous of Iran's AShMs thanks to it's widespread proliferation across the world, previous usage, and general media unfamiliarity with exact missile designations.
HY-2G launch - note the frame for camouflage (FNA)

The HY-2 was widely exported across the Middle East and saw action during the Iran-Iraq war where both sides used them against military and commercial targets. Iran's acquisition of the HY-2 began in 1986 when they captured an Iraqi missile base near Faw during the Valfajr-8 offensive that housed numerous Iraqi HY-2s that were being used against Iranian shipping originating from the northern Persian Gulf. It's unclear exactly what Iran was able to capture, but the it was enough, reportedly, to serve as the basis for Iran to reverse engineer. (44) Also around this time, Iran purchased a number of HY-2 missiles and associated launch equipment from China in order to outfit their own anti-shipping units. (45)

Control over the HY-2s was given (predictably) to the IRGC where they were located in and around the Hormuz passageway on Islands like Qeshm, Farsi and Larak. The IRGC deployed the missiles on mobile launchers as well as on built-up launching pads with revetments that allowed for more precise targeting. (46) Many of these sites are still visible today and may remain in use (Ex: Larak, Qeshm).

During the early-90s, China is reported to have transferred production know-how to Iran. This might appear to some to conflict with earlier reports indicating Iran reverse engineered them. However it's more then possible that Iran's reverse engineered production lines, if they did exist at all, were of a lower quality then the genuine tooling, materials, and training available from the Chinese. (47)

The missile itself is extremely large with two equally large horizontal mid-body wings for lift with three control surfaces at the rear of the missile arrayed very much like the H/V-stabilizers on aircraft rather then the cruciform pattern found on most missiles. Unlike modern missiles, it also uses a rather elaborate system of liquid fuel for propulsion which is highly toxic and requires full chemical protection to prepare for launching. Iran operates the HY-2G variant of the missile which features a radio altimeter for improved sea-skimming performance though it still retains the same active radar seeker as used on the original HY-2. (48) Details about any ground-based support radars used for tracking and surveillance are unknown.

Today, the HY-2 continues to be a mainstay of the IRGCs coastal defence units despite its obsolescence who are often seen during wargames firing the missiles from towed coastal launchers. A self-propelled variant similar to a North Korean design has also been seen on parade. Lately, launchers have been seen fitted on Mercedes Benz trucks and fitted with scaffolding to disguise them as civilian vehicles. It is also serves as the basis for Iran's indigenous Raad-1 which features numerous improvements.

Specifications:HY-2G (49)
Length: 7.36 m
Diameter: 76 cm
Weight: 2,998 kg
Speed:.9 mach
Range: 95 km
Warhead: 513 kg
Guidance: INS + active radar homing

Raad (رعد)
The Raad is an indigenous variant on the HY-2 which sees the replacement of the liquid-fuel engine with a turbojet that lends the missile it's distinctive appearance with two air-scoops at the rear of the missile. The archaic guidance package has also been replaced with the same DM-3B monopulse radar seeker used on the Noor and an unknown INS. It was first tested in 2004 and was reported have entered an unknown rate of production soon afterwords.(50)
Raad aboard a tracked, self-propelled launch platform (Unknown)

Specifications: Raad (50)
Length: 5.3 m
Diameter: 36 cm
Weight: 555 kg
Range:200-300 km (51)
Warhead: 165 kg
Guidance: INS + homing radar

Works Cited and Endnotes:
(1) Sistel Sea Killer/Marte. Harpoon Databases.
(2) IRINA Islamic Republic Of Iran Naval Aviation. Iranian Aviation Review. Issue No. 1. P. 9
(3) Sources vary on the development timeline of the missile,According to Jane's it began in 1975, though Harpoon Database suggests 1980. Others even suggest late-60s/early-70s.
(4) ibd Harpoon Databases.
(5) It's worth noting that almost no information can be gathered on any missile in China designated "FL-6".
(6) ibd Iranian Aviation Review, no 1.
(7) Report on the 5th Airshow, China. Richard Fisher, Jr. International Assessment and Strategy Center December 13th 2004.
(8) China Aids Iran's Tactical Missile Program. Robert Hewson. Jane's Air Launched Weapons. November 17th 2004. Accessed via:
(9) SIPRI Arms Transfer Database. 
(10) Helicopter launched AShMs played large roles in the Falkland War as well as the 1st Persian Gulf War.
(11) Modlex Entry.
(12) ibd Hewson, 2004
(13) ibd Modlex
(14) ibd Modlex
(15) ibd Modlex
(16) Active Radar/Millimetre Wave Precision Targeting System. Defence Update.
(17) ibd Modlex
(18) China's Missile Exports and Assistance to Iran. NTI.
(19) ibd, Hewson, 2004
(20) To view a copy of the entry:
(21) This image is accessible via:
(22) In Persian:
(23) Iran Opens "Nasr-1" Cruise Missile Production Line. ISNA. March 7th 2010.
(24) C-704 "Nasr" Missiles Found on Intercepted Cargo Ship. Uskowi on Iran. March 16th 2011.
(25) Basic information on ships of the RSN and the UAE Navy via Wikipedoa.
(26) ibd Modlex
(27) The C-704 carries a cm-band radar, and logically so would the Nasr though we have not recieved official confirmation from Iran that it does, so far it's only been described as a "homing radar seeker"
(28) ibd ISNA, 2010.
(29) PLA Cruise Missiles / PLA Air-Surface Missiles. Australia Airpower. Kopp et al. August 2010.
(30) C-801. Global Security.
(31) Sukhoi Su-24MK Fencer-D. Iranian Aviation Review. Issue No. 3. P. 14
(32) ibd Global Security, C-801
(33) Translation of ISNA News article done by a member of the now-defunct "". 
(34) Iran Tests New Submarine to Surface Missile. AP. August 2006. Accessed via:
(35) Naval Forces - Iranian Military Capability 2011. Open source Intelligence Project. P. 70. Accessible via this blog.
(36) ibd NTI
(37) ibd Iranian Aviation Review, no 3.
(38) ibd Iranian Aviation Review, no 3.
(39) ibd Iranian Aviation Review, no 3.
(40) ibd Naval Forces - Iranian Military Capability 2011.
(41) ibd Modlex
(42) ibd Modlex
(43) SIPRI Arms Transfer Database. 
(44) Iran-Iraq War in the Air 1980-1988. Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop. Schiffer Military History. 2000. P. 199, 210.
(45) SIPRI Arms Transfer Database
(46) Google Earth
(47) ibd NTI
(48) Ibd Kopp et al, 2010.
(49) The Lessons of Modern War - Volume II. CSIS. Accessible via:
(50) History of the Missiles of Iran - 4. Saff Magazine. No. 357. p.46
(51) Some sources claim a range of 350 km (ibd translation of ISNA article done by member)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ruminations on the Zulfiqar-3

Recently, an anonymous commentor directed me to a photo from the news-agency IIPA which showed the Zulfiqar-3 on a trailer during the Army Day Parade 2011. This photo didn't show anything we hadn't seen many times before but the angle of the camera was such that it allowed another round of estimates of the general dimensions of the tank.

These dimensions largely match up with the other measurements I took for the main article on the Zulfiqar-3. As Adam from the TV show "Mythbusters" would say, who doesn't love consistent data?

(Source: IIPA)