Iran accelerates its domestic counter-UAS capabilities in systems and networks

The shooting down of an Israeli Defence Force Elbit Hermes 450 UAV in Southern Lebanon at the start of April 2024 by Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces is a further indication of Iran’s growing capabilities in the counter-UAS domain. This is the second Israeli Hermes 450 which has been shot down by Hezbollah in recent weeks. In February, Iranian-backed Houthi militias shot down a US Air Force General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper flying near Yemen. Both drones were shot down by surface to air missiles.

Over the last two years Iran has dedicated considerable resources to building up a range of increasingly capable C-UAS systems which can be deployed individually or within a layered configuration.

In February this year, the Iranian Defence Ministry unveiled its Azarakhsh low-altitude air defence system. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA): “With the entry of new systems into the country’s defence network, the air defence capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” IRNA said. The Azarakhsh missile system can identify and destroy targets… up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles, it continued.

Iran is also understood to have recently upgraded its Zubin surface-to-air system with more C-UAS capabilities. The Zubin radar reportedly has a range of 30 km for low and medium radar cross-section targets with an engagement range for these targets of 20 km. According to unverified reports, the system can detect 100 and engage eight targets simultaneously using its vertical launch missiles.

The Zubin air defence system is understood to use Nawab air defence missiles of the type fitted to the Iranian Navy’s Zulfiqar air defence boat, unveiled at the start of 2023. Naval warfare experts say this is a novel design – a small, fast boat which can provide short ranged air defence for a swarm of other boats.

Another new C-UAS system, launched in January 2022, is the AD-08 Majid short-range mobile air defence (SHORAD) missile system. According to Iranian defence industry reports: “The AD-08 Majid is fitted with a weapon station that has a traverse of 360° and two pods of four missile launcher canisters are mounted on each side. The centre of the turret is fitted with electro-optical systems used to acquire targets and to guide the missile. The system is able to acquire aerial threats at a maximum range of 15 km with a traverse of 360° and elevation from 0 to 12°. It can four targets simultaneously. The missile used by the AD-08 Majid air defense system is equipped with passive imaging infrared (IIR) homing guidance system. It can hit targets with a range from 700 m to 8 km with an altitude from 20 m to 6 km. The missile has a diameter of 156mm, a length of 2,670 mm, and a total weight of 75 kg.”

As well as developing new C-UAS hardware, Iran’s military has also been working improving its networking and electronic warfare capabilities to optimise the potential of these new systems. In August 2023, units from the Iranian Army’s Ground Force, Air Force, Navy and Air Defence participated in the Separ-e Hafezan-e Velayat 1402 (“The Shield of the Guardians of Jurisprudence 1402”) exercise, which tested how a domestic network of homegrown electronic warfare systems – including  radars, drones, cyber and aerospace systems – can be managed through several regional nodes.

For more information–short-range-air-defense-system

(Image: the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defence system was unveiled in February 2024 in a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani – source IRNA)

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