Iran's liquid propellant ballistic missile

Updated: Jan 10

Advanced liquid propellant missile variants in scale to each other

The start: Tondar-69

Tondar-69 was Irans first locally made ballistic missile, before it became capable to build the R-17 Scud-B, Shahab-1. It was made possible by a Chinese technology transfer of the M-7 missile.

Its a 150km range missile based on the S-75/HQ-2 and has a 250kg HE warhead. What the Tondar-69 lacks in warhead destructive power is made up by its relative high accuracy for a 80's vintage Chinese missile.

Scud: Shahab-1 and -2

The R-17 Scud-B was the first ballistic missile Iran acquired.

It became capable to produce a R-17 copy with help from the DPRK in the 90's, called the Shahab-1. The range is 300km, with a nearly 1000kg heavy warhead.

The Shahab-2 Scud-C was an extended range variant, made by the DPRK with Iranian support.

Range is 500km with a 750kg warhead. Its development was more complicated than just decreasing the warhead mass. Due its 400-500m CEP, a sub-munition warhead was developed for Shahab-1 and -2.

An improved variant of the Shahab-1/-2 with terminal steering capability or a maneuverable re-entry vehicle, has also been shown, increasing accuracy.

First MRBM: Shahab-3

The Nodong/Hwasong-7 was a joint project with the DPRK to upscale the R-17 Scud.

Shahab-3 is the Iranian variant of it, modified to its 1150km range requirement in order create necessary deterrence against regional adveraries.

It uses a nearly 650kg HE warhead which is separable.

Ghadr-S: Improving the Shahab-3

Ghadr-S is an upgrade of the Shahab-3 to reach the desired range of 1350km with a 650kg warhead. Launch operations were simplified and various warhead options developed.

Left is the variant with a standardized unitary tri-conic re-entry vehicle.

Right is a variant which uses the sub-munition warhead developed for Shahab-1/-2. Very high altitude release of sub-munitions is an important capability of it. This feature can be used to counter low altitude ABM interceptors.

Ghadr-H and -F: Mobile long range missile

The Ghadr-H and -F are deep optimizations of the ancestral Shahab-3/Nodong platform, introducing new technologies.

Among the changes are new propellant combinations:

  • UDMH - IRFNA for the road mobile Ghadr-H

  • UDMH - N2O4 for the base launch mode Ghadr-F

These and other improvements increase the range to 1650km for the -H and 1950km for the -F.

Standardized tri-conic 650km re-entry vehicles are used with various warhead options.

Improving accuracy and potentially adding an anti-ballistic missile evasion capability, were the reasons for developing maneuverable re-entry vehicle options.

Two variants are known, one first seen on the Qiam ballistic missile and one previously unknown.

The variant on the left, known from the Qiam is probably for lower ranges, resulting in lower speeds.

The variant on the right, has more space, suitable for thermobaric and late terminal release submunition payloads. It is probably also rated for higher ranges (speeds).

Ghadr-F has not been shown publicly, but -H only differ in details, externally and almost look like the same missile.

Qiam MaRV
Unknown MaRV

Qiam: Airbase operation suppression

Another deep optimization of the basic R-17 Scud via new technologies, is the Qiam.

With 800km range, it closes the important range gap between 500km class Shahab-2 and 1000km class Shahab-3.

More importantly the bulk of adversary tactical airpower, would need to be based within those 800km, resulting in at least an 1600km distance for a munition laden figher-bomber to reach Iran's border.

This is the reason of the larger numbers of Qiam in the arsenal of the IRGC-ASF. The relative precise weapon and its submunition option, allow random timed strikes on, often soft, targets in an airbase. Destruction of airbase assets, as well as suppression of normal operations are the objectives.

The Qiam is believed to be the most numerous liquid propellant missile of Iran due to its relative small size, single stage and by being storeable. These features allow for a low life-time-cycle cost.

A MaRV payload for the Qiam increases precision, to allow attacks on individual airbase assets and critical runway sections.

The 650kg payload options and high velocity impact allow for sufficient destructive power

Emad: Evasive MaRV

The difference of the Emad over other Ghadr class missiles equipped with MaRV, is the quality of the latter.

It is a 750kg warhead equipped high speed MaRV able to operate, out to the maximum range of 1750km.

However compared to the other Iranian MaRV options, Emad is a high capability asset designed to strike regions protected by ABM systems. The MaRV is not only used for terminal-phase trajectory trimming but also high altitude, high-speed evasive maneuvering.

Therefore Emad is not just a Ghadr-F with a new MaRV but an asset that uses pseudo-random evasive maneuvering for energy defeat of ABM interceptors.

For this role, its booster stage has integrated retro-rockets to put it into a declining trajectory and so decrease the chances of early radar detection of the large booster flying closely behind the MaRV. Penetration aids protect it during the mid-course phase, thus creating counter-ABM capabilities in mid- and terminal phases of flight.

Next generation: Khorramshahr