Friday, January 22, 2010

Free Intel Career Webinar

On Thursday, 28 January, at 1100 PST, Professor Edward M. Roche, Ph.D., J.D. will lead a free "Insider's Guide" webinar on the impact of social networking and virtual worlds on intelligence collection. During the webinar Professor Roche will discuss topics including methods of intelligence gathering and surveillance through social networks, actions being taken by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor and combat terrorism through social networks, and the legal implications of using the Internet as a medium on intelligence gathering.

Anyone interested in attending can register online here.

A press release containing more information can be downloaded here.

An Op-Ed piece by Professor Roche, titled “Virtual Worlds and the Intelligence Community”, a look at how virtual technology is being used to combat terrorism, can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kapustin Yar Imagery Update

Google Earth has provided updated imagery of Kapustin Yar Missile Test Range (KYMTR). The new imagery, uploaded on 12 January 2010, was captured in May of 2009. This new imagery highlights one of the more significant areas of the test range, the system checkout facility.

It should be noted that this facility is not explicitly known to be associated with research and development, although it could certainly perform tasks in that capacity. R&D is handled by various locations to the northeast, which remain obscured as they are only currently visible in medium resolution. This facility is tied to the preparation of tested systems for operational use, and as such any significant activity is a sign that new systems are going to be operational in the near future.

The SAM system checkout facility at KYMTR, seen in the image below, is an evaluation center used to ensure that newly-produced SAM systems are in full working order before delivery to operational units or export customers. Typically, SAM systems will arrive at KYMTR and be fully evaluated, to include test firings to gauge the performance of the radar systems. There are five primary areas or interest in the evaluation center. These consist of separate pads for battle management and EW radars, firing battery components, and target launch systems.
It comes as no suprise that most of the activity at the KYMTR evaluation center appears focused on the S-300P and S-400 strategic SAM systems. Various components of each system can be seen in the available imagery. S-400 components are likely being evaluated for the Russian military, while S-300P components may be being evaluated for Russia or an export customer.

The first area of interest is the battle management radar facility. This facility consists of four large isolation chambers, each capable of housing a 64N6 or 91N6 (BIG BIRD) radar system. The radars are placed in isolation chambers to preclude interfering with each other, allowing more than one radar to be evaluated at a time, increasing the productivity of the facility. As can be seen in the image below, there are three BIG BIRD-series radars occupying the isolation chambers, with one chamber being unoccupied.
Moving northwest, the next area of interest is the likely target launch facility. Multiple 5P71 and 5P73 launch rails can be seen. These launch rails can be fitted with the 9F841 or RM-5V27 target missiles. The target launch facility can be seen in the image below:
Continuing to the northwest, the SAM firing positions can be seen, separated by a pad housing battery-level EW assets. The EW pad appears to contain two 96L6 series radar systems, along with multiple 40V6-series mast assemblies for mounting either the 96L6 or 76N6 EW radars. Each SAM pad contains four isolation chambers for the engagement radars, along with space for multiple TELs, allowing for four batteries to be evaluated at each location simultaneously.

The northern SAM pad appears to be evaluating S-300P series systems, with 5P85SM and 5P85T TELs in residence. These systems may be overhauled Russian examples being returned to line service, or prepared for export.

The southern SAM pad contains 5P85T and 5P85T2 TELs. 5P85T2 TELs can be visually differentiated from 5P85T TELs at this resolution with relative ease as the spare tire mounting on the right side of the cabin can clearly be seen. The presence of the 5P85T2 indicates that an S-400 battery is being evaluated. While the 5P85TE2 has been exported to China as part of the S-300PMU-2 (SA-20B GARGOYLE), all of China's batteries had been delivered by the time the imagery was captured. Taken in that light, these components are most likely belonging to a Russian S-400 battery. Russia will take delivery of S-400 batteries in 2010 to supplement the two batteries currently in service, and these components likely represent the first of those new batteries. The lack of any engagement radars at this location suggests that the TELs are being held pending the completion of production of other components, possibly including the engagement radar.

Given that there are three complete sets of TELs visible, one of which is likely for an S-400 battery, it is possible that one of the BIG BIRD radars visible at the battle management radar facility is a 91N6 variant.

The EW checkout pad can be seen in the image below:
The northern SAM checkout pad can be seen in the image below:
The southern SAM checkout pad can be seen in the image below:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Syrian Strategic SAM Deployment


Of all the Middle Eastern nations, Syria has one of the most robust SAM networks. Multiple SAM sites provide redundancy, allowing for overlapping coverage in many critical areas. It should come as no suprise that evidence of an illegal incursion into Syrian airspace by Israel was found in an area largely undefended by SAM systems.


The Syrian strategic SAM network relies primarily on Soviet-era systems. The following strategic SAM systems are currently in service as part of the fixed air defense network: S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE), S-125 (SA-3 GOA), and S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON). The 2K12 (SA-6 GAINFUL) tactical SAM systems is also employed at a number of fixed sites to provide additional support to the purpose-built strategic systems.

Currently, there are 131 active SAM sites inside of Syria. The following image depicts the locations of these sites. S-75 sites are red, S-125 sites are blue, S-200 sites are purple, and 2K12 sites are green.
The following image depicts the overall SAM coverage provided by Syrian air defense sites. Using the same color scheme applied in the previous image, S-75 range rings are red, S-125 rings are blue, S-200 rings are purple, and 2K12 rings are green.
EW Coverage

Early warning for the Syrian air defense network is handled by 22 EW radar sites. One of these sites possesses a 36D6 (TIN SHIELD) EW radar system. The majority of the remaining EW sites employ standard FSU EW systems, including the P-35/37 (BAR LOCK), P-12/18 (SPOON REST), P-19 (THIN SKIN), P-80 (BACK NET), and P-14 (TALL KING).

The following image depicts the locations of Syria's EW radar facilities:

There are currently 37 active S-75 sites within Syria. With one third of Syria's S-75 sites being operational, it would be simple to conclude that the S-75 is no longer heavily relied upon. However, given that the S-75 is still deployed in various key areas, this would seem to be an illogical conclusion. The more likely scenario is that early systems have exceeded their service lives and been withdrawn, and other systems have perhaps been stored for future use or simply withdrawn to downsize the network into a more financially manageable operation.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Syria's S-75 sites:

There are currently 39 active S-125 sites within Syria. The S-125 appears to be an extremely active system. 16 prepared S-75 and S-125 sites have seen S-125 batteries come and go since 2001, demonstrating Syria's ability to periodically adjust its SAM deployments. Approximately half of Syria's S-125 batteries are currently sited on prepared S-75 locations, a fact which demonstrates the importance of not only identifying site layouts but the systems occupying said locations.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Syria's S-125 sites:

There are currently 5 active S-200 sites within Syria. The S-200 provides long-range barrier air defense along the western border and into the Mediterranean.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Syria's S-200 sites:

There are currently 50 active 2K12 sites within Syria. Despite being a tactical SAM system, emplacing 2K12 batteries at prepared sites allows them to function as part of the overall strategic SAM network. Due to their inherent mobility, these systems could be rapidly relocated should the need arise.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Syria's SA-6 sites:
Empty Sites

There are currently 120 unoccupied, prepared SAM sites inside of Syria. These sites have been identified as either S-75, S-125, S-200, or 2K12 sites, based on their configurations, and can be broken down as follows: 80 S-75 sites, 16 S-125 sites, 2 S-200 sites, and 22 2K12 sites.

These empty SAM sites can perform multiple tasks within the overall air defense network. They can be employed as dispersal sites for existing air defense assets, complicating enemy targeting. They can also be used to deploy additional SAM systems currently held in storage if more air defense assets are deemed necessary in a given sector.

An overview of empty Syrian SAM sites is provided in the following image:

Syrian strategic SAM deployment is concentrated in six areas. These areas are around the cities of Hims, Halab, and Damascus, Tiyas air base, the Mediterranean coastal area, and the area adjacent to the Golan Heights. These SAM concentrations are emplaced to defend against obvious potential threat ingress routes. The largest perceived threat to Syrian sovereign airspace is Israeli air force activity. Syria enjoyed a relatively equitable relationship with Iraq, and as such likely did not see a need to deploy air defense assets in the eastern part of the nation. This "empty" airspace could easily be patrolled by MiG-23, MiG-25, or MiG-29 interceptors if the need arose.

There are important issues with the Syrian SAM network that need to be addressed. The main issue is the nature of the SAM systems themselves. All of the SAM systems in the Syrian inventory have a single-target engagement capability. Some of the S-200 sites have been noted with multiple 5N62 (SQUARE PAIR) engagement radars, allowing those sites to engage multiple targets (one per engagement radar), but the S-75, S-125, and 2K12 sites can only engage one target per site. This leaves the Syrian air defense network open to saturation.

Another issue is the employment of the 2K12 in a strategic role tied to fixed sites to provide close-in defense. The 2K12 has been exploited thouroughly by both the American and Israeli militaries and as such cannot be counted on to reliably defend against an airborne threat. The same could be said of the S-75 and S-125 SAM systems as well, of course, but the 2K12 suffers from the additional drawback of being constrained to a fixed location. The 2K12 is most effective on the move, whereby it can catch opposing aircraft off-guard by appearing in new locations that were previously undocumented. This may be a part of the Syrian strategy, but for now, the 2K12 remains a stationary target insofar as how it is currently deployed.

Syrian reliance on aging and well-known Soviet-era SAM systems is a serious defensive liability. This is certainly part of the impetus behind Syria's current drive to purchase more advanced SAM systems from Russia.

Another important issue to address is the fact that there are two noticeable gaps in Syrian SAM coverage. While these areas are in fact covered by S-200 sites, they lack any sort of low-altitude coverage or close-in defense. Approximately midway between Damascus and Hims, and midway between Al Lathqiyah and Halab, are large gaps in the SAM coverage, areas where there are not even identified empty sites where fixed systems such as the S-75 or S-125 could be emplaced if needbe. These gaps are not necessarily an invitation to invasion, however, as key targets such as the capital are still heavily defended.


The first area to be examined is the area surrounding the capital of Damascus. Damascus is defended by ten S-75 sites, eight S-125 sites, and twenty-eight 2K12 sites. Two of Syria's five active S-200 sites are also located in close vicinity to the capital, as well as twelve EW sites, including the 36D6 site. Forty-eight empty dispersal sites are also in the area, providing for an increase in defensive capabilities should the need arise. SAM coverage of the capital is relatively robust even without the addition of further SAM sites, and careful placement of S-125 and 2K12 batteries provides overlapping close-in defense in conjunction with the longer-range S-75 sites.

The following image depicts the SAM coverage around Damascus:
The Southwest

Apart from the capital, the most important piece of real estate in Syria may be that in the southwest, adjacent to the Golan Heights. This area is defended by seven S-75 sites, six S-125 sites, and nine 2K12 sites, and supported by one identified EW site. One of the S-200 sites located south of Damascus also can provide coverage of this area. There are sixteen identified dispersal sites in the area, but the large concentration of SAM systems provides a very well put together air defense network over southwestern Syria without any further increases. The large number of 2K12 sites is clearly meant to counter the threat posed by Israeli air force fighter aircraft, the 2K12 being more maneuverable and better suited to engaging fast jets than the more strategic-oriented S-75 and S-125 systems.

The following image depicts the SAM coverage of southwestern Syria:
Mediterranean Coast

The Golan-area SAM network is clearly oriented to provide barrier air defense against airborne threats ingressing from the west. The same sort of barrier air defense network can be found along Syria's Mediterranean coastline to the north. Extending from Al Lathqiyah to Tartus, five S-75 and twelve S-125 sites provide air defense along Syria's northwestern border with the sea, supported by two EW sites. There are also two S-200 sites in the area to provide long-range air defense over open water. Sixteen dispersal sites in the area are situated to provide an increase in defensive capability.

The following image depicts the SAM coverage of Syria's northwestern coastline:
Hims-Halab Line

There is a second SAM barrier behind the coastal defenses, protecting the area from Hims in the south to Halab in the north. The barrier consists of eleven S-75 sites, ten S-125 sites, and eleven 2K12 sites, supported by three EW sites. An S-200 battery is positioned southeast of Hims, and there are thirty dispersal sites along the line, mostly concentrated in the south around Hims.

The following image depicts the SAM coverage of the Hims-Halab belt:
Tiyas AB

Tiyas AB is defended by four S-75 and three S-125 sites, supported by an EW site, and surrounded by seven dispersal sites available if necessary. Air defenses surrounding Tiyas are not particularly robust when compared to the rest of the network, but they do provide a heightened degree of security and are overlapping and redundant to a limited degree.

The following image depicts the SAM coverage around Tiyas AB:

Syria's SAM network is very robust on paper, and would appear to offer a significant degree of protection at first glance, but this is not necessarily the case. Against a limited incursion, the Syrian air defense network remains capable, despite the reliance on aging Soviet-era systems. This is one likely factor which drove the Israeli Air Force to circumvent SAM-defended areas when striking the Dayr az Zawr suspect nuclear facility in 2007. Said reliance on Soviet-era SAM systems will provide a serious handicap when facing a major air incursion by a modern opponent. It is time for Syria to modernize its strategic SAM defenses if it desires to retain the ability to defend its airspace in the 21st Century.


-SAM ranges taken from Jane's Land Based Air Defence.

-All overhead imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Iranian Strategic SAM Deployment


With the current attention being given to potential Iranian nuclear weapons development, it is prudent to examine the defensive posture of the Persian state in light of potential military action. This article will focus on Iran's strategic SAM deployment. Three different strategic SAM types, along with two tactical SAM types, provide sporadic, yet still potentially effective, SAM coverage throughout the nation. Unusual deployment strategies hint at what may be part of a serious deception campaign, possibly providing insight into the apparent lack of serious, integrated ground-based air defense coverage throughout most of the nation.


The Iranian air defense network relies on a mixture of Soviet and Western SAM systems. This relatively unusual mix stems from both pre- and post-1979 acquisitions from the West and the Soviet Union, respectively. The following SAM systems are currently in service as part of the overall air defense network: HQ-2 (CSA-1 GUIDELINE, a Chinese-produced S-75 derivative, employing the TIGER SONG engagement radar), HAWK, S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON), 2K12 (SA-6 GAINFUL), and Tor-M1E (SA-15 GAUNTLET).

EW Coverage

Primary early warning and target track generation for the Iranian strategic SAM force is handled by a network of 24 EW radar sites, one of which is currently inactive. These sites are primarily situated along the periphery of the nation, with additional facilities located in the vicinity of Arak and Esfahan. A third of the facilities are located along Iran's strategically important Persian Gulf coastline.

The following image depicts the location of EW sites in Iran:
SAM Coverage

Currently, there are 41 active SAM sites inside of Iran. The following image depicts the locations of these sites. HQ-2 sites are red, HAWK sites are orange, S-200 sites are purple, 2K12 sites are bright green, and Tor-M1E sites are faded green.
The following image depicts the overall SAM coverage provided by Iranian air defense sites. Using the same color scheme applied in the previous image, HQ-2 sites are red, HAWK sites are orange, S-200 sites are purple, 2K12 sites are bright green, and Tor-M1E sites are faded green.

There are currently 7 active HQ-2 sites identified inside of Iran. The HQ-2 does not appear to be heavily relied upon, with only 7 of 21 sites remaining operational.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Iran's HQ-2 sites:

There are currently 22 active HAWK sites identified inside of Iran. The HAWK has been a mainstay of Iranian strategic air defense since its acquisition before the Islamic Revolution. While numbers have dwindled, with roughly half of the Iranian HAWK sites currently active, the system is still widely deployed at numerous locations. The Iranian HAWK deployments are interesting as they represent a tactical SAM system deployed in a strategic capacity.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Iran's HAWK sites:

There are currently 7 active S-200 sites identified inside of Iran. The S-200 represents the lognest-range strategic SAM asset operationally employed by the Iranian military.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Iran's S-200 sites:
Tactical SAM Sites

There are currently 6 tactical SAM deployment locations identified inside of Iran. These systems are currently employed as strategic point defense assets. Two sites are occupied by 2K12 batteries, the remaining four being occupied by Tor-M1E TELARs.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by Iran's deployed tactical SAM systems:
Empty Sites

There are currently 31 unoccupied, prepared SAM sites inside of Iran. These sites have been identified as either HQ-2 or HAWK sites, based on their configurations. These empty SAM sites can perform multiple tasks within the overall air defense network. They can be employed as dispersal sites for existing air defense assets, complicating enemy targeting. They can also be used to deploy additional SAM systems currently held in storage if more air defense assets are deemed necessary in a given sector.

An overview of empty Iranian SAM sites is provided in the following image:

National S-200 Coverage

The primary means of air defense in Iran, insofar as SAM systems are concerned, is the deployment of 7 S-200 firing batteries throughout the nation. The four northernmost sites are positioned to defend the northern border and the region surrounding the capital of Tehran. A fifth site is situated to defend facilities in and around Esfahan in central Iran, including the Natanz nuclear facility. The last two sites are situated at Bandar Abbas and Bushehr and provide coverage over the Straits of Hormuz and the northern half of the Persian Gulf, respectively.

The northern four S-200 sites, as well as the southern two sites, are well positioned to provide air defense outside Iran's borders to deter any inbound aggressor from approaching the ADIZ. The central site near Esfahan is a curiosity, however. The southern and western portions of the coverage area are limited due to the presence of a good deal of mountainous terrain, in some cases 10,000 feet or more higher than the terrain where Esfahan is located. This also affects the remaining six sites, but they are affected to a lesser degree due to the fact that they are positioned to defend outwards towards the border and beyond, not likely intended to defend against targets operating deep within Iranian airspace. The Esfahan site, in direct contrast, is apparently situated to defend a central portion of the nation, and as such is limited in its effectiveness by the aforementioned terrain considerations. The curiosity lies in positioning a long-range SAM system in such a fashion to apparently purposely limit its effectiveness. This can be overlooked to a small degree as the S-200 is not necessarily a choice system when it comes to engaging low-altitude targets, but the terrain in the area would seem to greatly reduce the effectiveness of the Esfahan site. The radar horizon is the key issue here, as each piece of terrain situated higher than the engagement radar will carve a significant portion out of the system's field of view and limit its ability to provide widespread coverage.

Iranian S-200 sites appear to be purposely limited in their composition. Each site consists, unusually, of one 5N62 (SQUARE PAIR) engagement radar and two launch rails. For more information on this unusual practice, reference the following article on this site: S-200 SAM Site Analysis

Point Defense

The remainder of Iran's SAM sites are positioned in a point defense strategy to provide coverage of key areas in the nation. There are five key areas defended by shorter-range systems: Tehran, Esfahan, Natanz, Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas. All of these areas are also covered by S-200 sites, which are co-located in some instances, providing a degree of overlapping coverage in these locations.

The capital city of Tehran is defended by five HAWK sites, two HQ-2 batteries, and a 2K12 battery. There are four empty sites in the area. The southwestern two sites are prepared HQ-2 sites, while the northwest and southeast sites are prepared HAWK sites. Were the empty sites to be occupied, they would form an inner HAWK barrier and an outer HQ-2 barrier oriented to defend against threats from the west and south. This layout may be a legacy leftover from the Iran-Iraq War. Two S-200 sites are also in the vicinity, and the other two S-200 sites to the east and west also provide limited coverage of the capital.

The following image depicts SAM coverage of Tehran:
There are two HAWK sites and one HQ-2 site in the vicinity of Esfahan. One of the HAWK sites, as well as the S-200 site in the area, are located on the grounds of Esfahan AB, with the HAWK site likely situated to provide point defense of the airbase. The HQ-2 site and the remaining HAWK site are located south of Esfahan proper. An empty HAWK site is also located in Esfahan, likely representing a dispersal site for the battery at Esfahan AB.

The following image depicts SAM coverage in the vicinity of Esfahan:
Nuclear related facilities near Natanz are afforded a layered defense by recently-deployed tactical and strategic SAM ssytems. Natanz is defended by one HQ-2 site, three HAWK sites, one 2K12 battery, and four Tor-M1E TELARs. The tactical systems were deployed between September 2006 and September 2009; the increased air defense posture may signify an increase in activity at the nuclear facility.

The following image depicts SAM coverage in the vicinity of Natanz:
The Bushehr region, which contains a key nuclear facility, is defended by four HAWK sites and an HQ-2 battery. Two HAWK sites are located on the grounds of the Busheher military comples, with a third site being located offshore on Khark Island, while the HQ-2 battery is located further inland from the military complex nearer to Choghadak. Bushehr AB is also home to an S-200 battery. There are three unoccupied HQ-2 sites and a single unoccupied HAWK site in the area as well. Three unoccupied sites are situated around the nuclear complex, perhaps suggesting that any weapons-related work has been moved from the facility to one of the various inland nuclear research and development locations such as Natanz. This would appear to be a sensible course of action given the serious vulnerability of the coastal Bushehr nuclear facility to enemy activity approaching from the Persian Gulf region. The remaining unoccupied HQ-2 site is located on an islet northeast of Khark island.

The following image depicts SAM coverage in the vicinity of Bushehr:
Bandar Abbas, home to the bulk of the Iranian Navy including the deadly Kilo SSK fleet, is defended by one HQ-2 battery and one HAWK battery. There is an S-200 site in the region as well.

The following image depicts SAM coverage of Bandar Abbas:
Defending the Straits

The S-200 sites located in the vicinity of both Bushehr and Bandar Abbas provide Iran with a significant air defense capability over not only a good portion of the Persian Gulf, but also over the critical Straits of Hormuz. This SAM coverage, which can be further expanded thanks to the presence of unoccupied, prepared HAWK sites on the islands of Abu Musa and Lavan, allows Iran to provide increased air defense in conjunction with fighter aircraft to protect any naval operations in the region, including the potentially catastrophic mining of the Straits of Hormuz.

Air Defense Issues

The problem with Iran's strategic SAM deployment is the apparent over-reliance on the S-200 system to provide air defense over most of the nation. The S-200 is certainly a threat to ISR aircraft such as the U-2R or E-3, but the primary threat which Iran must consider is that of standoff cruise missiles and strike aircraft featuring comprehensive EW suites. Against these types of low-RCS or maneuverable targets, the S-200 cannot be counted upon to be effective. Libyan S-200 systems proved completely ineffective against USN and USAFE strike aircraft in 1986, and the Iranian S-200s would logically be expected to fare no better in a much more modern air combat environment.

As mentioned previously, the remainder of the SAM assets are primarily situated to provide point defense and as such do not represent a serious threat to a dedicated and sophisticated enemy. Even lesser-equipped nations would be able to explot the various gaps and vulnerabilities in the coverage zones provided the S-200s could be neutralized in some fashion, be it through ECM, technical capability, or direct attack. This raises the question of the importance of SAM systems to Iran's overall air defense network. Given the current deployment strategy, the small number of sites, and the capability of the systems themselves, it is likely that Iran places more importance on the fighter force as an air defense element. This would explain the continued efforts to retain an operational fleet of F-14A interceptors. The short range of the HQ-2 and HAWK systems, coupled with the ineffectiveness of the S-200 to deal with low-RCS targets, also explains reporting regarding Iranian attempts to purchase advanced SAM systems from Russia.

It is possible that Iran simply does not feel that a robust SAM network is necessary. Given the aforementioned terrain constraints in some areas of the nation, as well as the lack of a large number of what may be regarded by the Iranian government as potential critical targets inside of Iran, the Persian nation may have simply taken a minimalist posture, relying on the S-200 for long-range defense and the other systems as point defense weapons to defend Iran's critical military and political infrastructure.

Another reason for the lack of deployed SAM systems could be that the shorter-ranged HQ-2 and HAWK systems are no longer viewed as being effective enough to warrant widespread use. HQ-2 sites are currently 33% occupied, with HAWK sites being approximately 50% occupied, perhaps signifying more faith in the HAWK system but still demonstrating a potential overall trend of perceived non-reliability. Iran does have reason to suspect the reliability of the HAWK SAM system against a Western opponent, as the missile was an American product and has been in widespread use throughout the West for decades. The HQ-2, however, should be regarded as potentially more reliable, as it is not a standard (and widely exploited) S-75 but rather a Chinese-produced weapon with which the West should have a lesser degree of technical familiarity insofar as electronic performance, if not physical performance, is concerned.

A high ratio of unoccupied sites could be due to financial reasons (lack of operating funds may have resulted in a number of batteries placed in storage) or simple attrition (they may have been expended or destroyed in the Iran-Iraq War), of course, but those facets of the equation cannot be examined through imagery analysis alone. It should be mentioned that one possible source of attrition for the HQ-2 system is the conversion of many missiles to Tondar-69 SSMs to complement CSS-8 SSMs (HQ-2 derivatives) obtained from China. Many batteries may also be out of service for modification to Sayyad-1 standard, which represents a modification of the HQ-2 design with some indigenous components.


On the surface, Iran's ground-based air defense picture appears to be relatively robust thanks to the presence and reach of the seven S-200 batteries. However, a closer analysis reveals an overall coverage which is currently full of holes and vulnerabilities that a potential aggressor could exploit. The Iranian strategic SAM force is obviously in need of a serious upgrade, one which is more substantial than simply producing modified HQ-2 missiles. The presence of air interceptors and numerous terrain constraints do explain away some of the negative aspects of Iran's SAM network, but taken as a whole it represents a relatively ineffective form of defense against a modern agressor. Given the current political climate, it would be in the best interest of the Iranian military to proceed with a widespread upgrade, with the most effective option being the purchase of S-300PMU-2 or S-400 SAM systems for Russia, or perhaps the more cost-effective and similarly capable HQ-9 SAM system from China. Incorporating either purchase into a package deal with modern fighter aircraft such as the Su-30MK or J-10 would result in a much more robust air defense capability.


-The aforementioned data is based on analysis of the available open-source satellite imagery of Iran and may not represent the entire air defense network.

Iranian Military Guide

-Jane's Land Based Air Defence, various editions.

-All overhead imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth.

This article has been updated, the original version was published in September of 2007.