Iran's solid propellant ballistic missile

Different RV and MaRV designs of Iran's solid propellant missiles

Fateh-110: From rocket to missile

The product of Irans work on heavy battlefield rockets, resulted in first indigenous samples at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the 80's. This development reached its peak in the late 90's Zelzal-2.

Fateh-110, Iran's first solid fuel ballistic missile, used the Zelzal-2 booster, combining it with a guidance and aerodynamic steering system.

The goal of the first generation Fateh-110 of 2002, was the ability to strike large soft targets. The 450kg high explosive warhead is heavy enough for lethal shrapnel effect and the maximum range is 250km.

Later generations increased range to 300km and included GNSS course update to the ever improving guidance systems.

The lastest generation guidance system, is believed to be sufficiently accurate to allow for very low CEP, without mid-course update. Sufficient for strikes against hard targets.

Khalije Fars: Anti-ship ballistic missile

Countering ship defenses by supersonic terminal speed was the motivation to equip the Fateh-110 with a seeker system, allowing strike moving targets.

When developed in the late 2000's, Khalij e Fars was the second operational anti-ship ballistic missile after the Chinese DF-21C/D.

With its 450kg warhead and a range 250-300km was kinematically significantly inferior than the Chinese weapon.

Overcoming the technical hurdles of such a seeker and guidance system, it became Irans first supersonic anti-ship missile, maintaining supersonic speed at impact.

Hormuz-1/-2: Improving Khalij e Fars


The blunt seeker of the Khalij a Fars and its optical and infrared seeker spectrum had some drawbacks.

It would decelerate the missile, which otherwise, with a tipped nose, could reach a high supersonic speed.

Advanced adversary naval vessels could use optical/infrared countermeasures to defeat its seeker.

As a counter the Hormuz-1 was developed, with a passive radio (radar) seeker. Exploiting the fact that the ships radars would try to actively track the inbound missile to defend against them, Hormuz-1 would home on the EM emissions during the engagement.

A third seeker option was added by the active radar seeker Hormuz-2 (right photo). Having this variant in an engagement, would add to the robustness and allow targeting of vessels in radio-silence.

Kinematically similar to the Khalij e Fars, the combined and simultaneous use of the three seeker options, increase the chances of defeating advanced adversaries.

Fateh-313: Composite material Fateh-110

The range of the Fateh-110 was extended to 500km with the composite casing Fateh-313.

It was the first Iranian solid propellant missile, to switch from steel to composite material.

Fateh-110 allows to engage targets which were previously only covered by liquid propellant Shahab-2 and Qiam missiles.

It was first used operationally in the 2020 attacks on the U.S airbase at Ain-al-Assad in Iraq.

Fateh-Mobin: Pin-point strike

To achieve high precision impacts against hardened targets inertial or GNSS guidance may not be sufficient. Image or radar correlation is necessary if such high precision requirements are present.

Fateh-Mobin is a Fateh-110 with a terminal image correlation sensor which adds this special capability to the family.

It has a cap, a thermal and aerodynamic shield, which it jettisons once the sensor reaches acquisition range.

In comparison, Khalij e Fars which also has a terminal optical/IR sensor, needs to acquire the moving naval targets from a significantly high altitude.

Zolfaghar and Dezful: Extending range


Fateh-313 and mastering composite motor casings, allowed to scale up the Fateh family and reach significantly longer ranges.

Zolfaghar (photo left) unveiled in 2016 increases the warhead from 450kg to 580kg and increases the range about 3 times to 700km.

The improved Dezful (photo right), improves the missile and apparently reduces the warhead to reach the, for Iran, strategically important range of 1000km.

Improvement over the Fateh-110 series, also includes a separable maneuverable re-entry vehicle and likely an aero-ballistic glide phase. It is believed, that evasive maneuvers can be performed in that terminal phase, to counter anti-ballistic-missile systems.

While the, in relation, small fins of the Fateh-110 do not allow for high altitude, high-g maneuvers, the fins of the Zolfagar/Dezful are large in comparison to the size of the MaRV.

A unique buried launch-container basing mode was unveiled for the Zolfaghar family in 2020, significantly increasing its survivability, as well as allowing for simultaneous saturation attacks. This instantly available, survivable arsenal, can thus also be based close to border regions, allowing for a longer reach.

Early 2021 up to 12 Zolfaghar/Dezful were launched simultaneously during a maneuver, displaying a ABM saturation strategy, that combines with the evasive MaRV.

Zolfaghar Basir

Zolfaghar-Basir is a variant of the family, with a optical or infrared seeker.

Similar to the Khalij a Fars, it is for use against adversary naval vessels, but at 3 times increased range.

The relative small sensor window diameter, in comparison with the MaRV, allows for higher supersonic terminal velocity.

The technical hurdles are significant, since the thermal stress increase disproportionally with increase in range.

The high terminal speed, as well as the high-g maneuver capable, small MaRV, make the Zolfaghar significantly more dangerous than the Khalij e Fars predecessor.

Raad-500: Next generation Fateh-110

At half the mass, but nearly twice the range, Raad-500 is vastly superior compared the late 90's Fateh-110.

It employs an extremely lightweight carbon fiber filament motor casing and a relative high lift-to-drag ratio MaRV for extended gliding performance.

In its size and weight class, it is kinematically the highest performing missile in the world, even ranking above Israel's internal-standard Lora ballistic missile.

Its MaRV adds pseudo-random, energy-defeat, evasive-maneuvering against ABM systems, like the Zolfaghar family previously. Its terminal velocity is significantly higher than that of the Fateh-110 family.

Haj Qasem: Single-stage long-range

Unveiled in summer 2020, Haj Qasem builds up upon the Zolfaghar/Dezful to create a cost efficient single-stage missile platform for Iran's 1000-2000km long range requirement.

Equipped with the comparably low lift-to-drag ratio MaRV derived from the Dezful, its stated range is 1400km.

A future maximum range has also been stated officially; 1800km, probably by using a new, higher lift-to-drag ratio hypersonic glide vehicle.

Kinematically, the Haj Qasem has sufficient reserves to allow for hypersonic terminal speed. It depends on the MaRV or HGV design whether such terminal speed can be maintained.

Read my detailed blogpost about it:

Unique stabilisator layout for container launch
Dezful-based MaRV

Sejil: High-performance long-range missile

Sejil is Iran's most potent ballistic missile asset.

While the liquid propellant Khorramshahr has vast kinematic and economic superiority, Sejil combines more requirements of a ballistic missile system.

As an early 2000's design, it is technologically in many ways obsolete, compared to recent Iranian missiles. Its large and heavy for the payload its able to deliver.

The critical importance of the two-stage Sejil however is not affected by these facts, for following reasons:

  • Its steel motor casing and fast acceleration, makes any kinetic or directed energy boost-phase interception by advanced adversary very difficult. No country has known boost-phase interception capability, but at the time Sejil was developed it was viewed as a serious future threat.

  • Solid propellant, allows for widespread random basing when on alert and instant availability, creating an important capability during crisis

  • High burn-out velocity, allows for high terminal speed, defeating lower-end ABM systems.

Shortly after the Sejil-1, the more powerful Sejil-2 was fielded, removing the complex thrust termination system of the Sejil-1.

It is not known, if this was done due to the availability of a system similar to generalized energy management steering GEMS, developed first by the Trident missile.

Or whether the use of an unknown MaRV allowed for aerodynamic velocity trimming when re-entering the atmosphere, similar to the Indian Agni-2.

Visible thrust termination ports on Sejil-1
Sejil-2 lacking thrust termination, lowering weight

Sejil is a "frontline" ballistic missile for Iran, launched in the first waves at the beginning of a conflict. At that phase, with adversary ABM systems still active, it can overcome some systems by:

  • deploying mid-course lightweight inflatable decoys

  • its high terminal speed

  • or potentially a yet unseen evasive MaRV similar the one on the Emad mssile

More expensive but also more capable than other Iranian ballistic missiles, it was developed to be used against adversary high value targets and potentially ABM systems and ballistic/nuclear missiles.

In maneuvers in early 2021, moving naval target mocks-ups were claimed by the IRGC-ASF to have been hit, with three Sejil-2 being present at the launch site.

If true this would be another indication for a yet unknown MaRV existing for the Sejil-2