TechIran's aid to Russia: How accurate ballistic missiles intensify the Ukrainian crisis

Iran's aid to Russia: How accurate ballistic missiles intensify the Ukrainian crisis

Iranian ballistic missiles Zolfaghar and Dezful.
Iranian ballistic missiles Zolfaghar and Dezful.
Images source: © Getty Images | NurPhoto
2:11 PM EST, February 21, 2024

As reported by Reuters, since January 2023, around 400 Iranian ballistic missiles from the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar families have been dispatched to Russia. Their precision surpasses the missiles purchased from North Korea: the KN-18, KN-23, KN-24, and KN-25 models.

Russia leverages these deliveries to persist with rocket attacks on Ukraine, circumventing its own deficient production capacity. As a result, Ukraine's anti-aircraft and missile defenses are under considerable strain, especially given the limited or entirely expended reserves for the S-300P and S-300W systems.

Meanwhile, a scant handful of Patriot system batteries (three) and a single SAMP/T, provided by Western countries, are woefully inadequate to secure all strategic points. Only medium-range systems can intercept ballistic missiles which, propelled from higher atmospheric layers, can reach speeds up to Mach 7 (around 4474 mph).

Iran's ballistic missiles are a potent and highly accurate threat

Iran is rumored to have supplied Russia with missiles from the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar lines. The Fateh-110 are single-stage, solid-fuel missiles, approximately 29 feet long and weighing 3.9 tons. They were developed in the 1990s and commissioned in 2004, originating from the unguided Zelzal-2 missiles, which are based on the Soviet Luna-M. These missiles have been upgraded with satellites and inertial navigation systems as well as elements to correct the missile's trajectory.

The initial versions had a Circular Error Probable (CEP) of about 1640 feet, but this margin of error has been reduced by the Iranians to around 33 feet. Such a thin margin for missiles carrying up to 1102 pounds of payload implies that the target stands little chance of surviving the hit. Their standard load is a fragmentation warhead, but the missile can also accommodate a cluster or chemical payload.

The Zolfaghar missile, first showcased in 2016 and deployed against targets in Syria the following year, is a longer-ranged ballistic missile capable of reaching up to 435 miles. This missile can be seen as a more extensive version of the Fateh-110. Measuring 33 feet long and weighing more than 4.4 tons, it can carry a payload exceeding 1102 pounds, which separates from the missile body, further complicating its interception.

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