Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD)
Iranian SHORAD missile systems:
Lighter Air-Defense systems:
Tor-M1 (SA-15 Gauntlet)
By far and away the most advanced and potent air defense system in the current Iranian inventory, the 29 Tor-M1 systems entering service provide a
credible defense against cruise missiles, stand-off weapons and medium/low flying aircraft including fast jets. Their main weakness is that they are
relatively short ranged and cannot reach the highest altitude bombers.
Although the Tor was designed to provide organic air defense to maneuvering armored brigades, Iran’s greatest threat is perceived as pre-emptive air
strikes on key installations, and it seems likely that at least some of the Tor systems are deployed around key strategic targets during times of
The Tor system in Iranian service is not the most current Tor variant, but it remains a very formidable adversary.
In May 2007 Iran was reported to have purchased at least 10 Pantsyr S-1E combined gun/SAM systems from Russia via Syria, although subsequent delivery
to Iran has yet to be confirmed. The Pantsyr system is extremely potent with similar anti-missile capability to the Tor-M1, but with more missiles
(12 ready to fire vs 8) and two 30mm auto-cannons. The only noteworthy weakness of the system is that it is truck based and requires deployment of
stabilizing legs to operate, thus making it inherently static in operation and thus cannot move to escape anti-radiation missiles, although it could
conceivably shoot down the incoming ARM providing a measure of self defense.
For the role of defending key facilities and cities Pantsyr is a better choice than the Tor-M1, so delivery of the Pantsyr may free up any Tors that
are being used for static defense for their more fitting role as regular maneuver units.
FM-80/Shahab Thaqeb (Matra R440 Crotale)
Iran had attempted to purchase the Crotale (Rattlesnake) short range SAM system from the French in 1985 but appears to have been rebuffed. However,
Iran subsequently purchased a number of FM-80 (HQ-7) Crotale short -range SAM systems from China and more recently succeeded in reverse engineering
the system under the Ya-zahra project. There is speculation that Iran also captured French made Crotale units from the Iraqis, and it is possible that
Libya, who also operate Crotale and where allied to Iran in the 1980s also supplied equipment and/or technology. The new system, which differs in use
of the Oerlikon Sky Guard radar instead of the original French radar, is called Shahab Thaqeb. It is not clear what the operational status of either
the Shahab Thaqeb or FM-80 systems s and they are rarely (if ever) paraded for the press or photographers in an operational state.
Before the revolution Iran had planned to mass produce the Rapier system under license, but when the regime change put paid to that only a small
number of British assembled launchers had been delivered. The planned technology transfer required for local production had not taken place. Unlike
other systems it is not thought that any extra missiles were delivered during the Iran-Iraq war.
Iranian Rapier systems were the original “Mk 1” system but with added ‘Blindfire’ tracking radars (sometimes retrospectively described as FSA;
Field Standard “A”). This is essentially the same system that Britain used with modest (often over-stated) success in the Falklands war. However,
several design flaws were found and subsequent modifications made, in particularly to increase the range, the addition of a warhead with proximity
fuse. Iranian Rapiers however still use the non-warhead “Mk 1” missile that has to hit its target to inflict any damage (a “hittle” not a
“miss-ile”…). Iran has developed local production of missiles and possibly fire units, but it is likely that the Rapier is not very widely
deployed, not least because it is becoming obsolete, although some degree of operational service remains, evidenced by the routine inclusion of the
system in military parades. Relative to the Shahab Thaqeb (FM-80) program the Rapier is much shorter ranged and has less modern electronics.
Iran experimented with a fully mobile Rapier system employing an all-terrain 8 wheel drive truck, with a distinctive tandem stepped cockpit
reminiscent of an attack helicopters on the left hand side of the vehicle. There were four reloads in protective boxes on the back of the truck.
It’s not clear if there was an additional search radar.
Although this variant improved mobility it reduced the arc of fire and for whatever reason does not appear to have made it into production.
Sky Guard / 35mm AAA
Iran purchased 24 SkyGuard systems before the revolution and primarily deployed them as point defense for air bases and other strategic targets. The
AAA used is the Oerlikon GDF-001 35mm twin mount. In 2008 Iran unveiled a reverse engineered version which appears virtually identical to the GDF-001
and does not appear to include any of the design changes included in the later GDF-002>005 types now in service. Over the years the serviceability of
the SkyGuard radars probably deteriorated and other radar sets were substituted. More recently Iran has unveiled a new radar similar to the existing
Fledermaus fire control radar for locally produced GDF-001s, and possibly receiving upgraded Super Flederrmaus radars from India . Although the
ballistic performance and rate of fire make it by far the most potent of Iranian AAA systems, it is still reliant on manual aiming and firing, and
lacks AHEAD or similar advanced ammunition.
Although it is difficult to ID AAA from civilian satellite imagery, a fair guess can be made by using the relative size of the ‘blob’. The two
main AAA pieces used by Iran are the Swiss GDF-001 and Soviet ZU-23-2. When viewed from above the latter is much smaller, especially as the wheels are
often removed if the gun is going to be sitting there for a prolonged period:
Hawk SAM launchers are also about this size but these sites have a distinctive signature – as a rule if there are less than 5 or 6 ‘blobs’ then
it’s not a Hawk site. FM-80 on the other hand would appear much larger whilst Rapier would be smaller than the 35mm AAA and would have a generator
connected by a cable and control station(s) nearby.
Because the system comprises of a radar and two AAA guns, the site layout is typically triangular although there are several exceptions. A typical
site layout is “A” shaped:
The radar position and gun positions are usually raised to improve the fields of view/fire.
The distribution of SkyGuard around Tehran can be divided into four groups; A, B, C and D:
Group A approximately encircles the city centre, but is primarily sited at air bases. Because of the city centre is highly built up it is difficult
for the AAA to have a full field of fire and it is possible that additional AAA would be sited on the tops of tall buildings in times of conflict.
Group B defends the alleged missile development facilities and is co-located with a cluster of lighter 23mm AAA. Group C defends a large oil refinery.
Group D, which again is co-located with a cluster of 23mm AAA positions, protects the Parchin facilities.
Additionally there are several ‘possible’ sites although none appear to be occupied.
ZU-23-2 Light AAA
Probably the main AAA weapon in terms of numbers employed, the Zu-23-2 is a reasonably effective weapon against low-flying targets at short range. It
uses essentially the same gun as in the infamous ZU-23-2 Shilka but only two rather than four, thus having only half the rate of fire. The weapon is
crewed and relies on the crew for alignment with the target, although the crew may be cued by radar. The strength of the system is its simplicity, but
it is generally ineffective against fast moving targets such as missiles and provides little comfort against cruise missile attack. The system is
usually deployed in single gun positions surrounding key installations.