Iranian Missile Tests on the Rise
Tehran’s missile development programs—like developing solid fuelled ballistic missiles, bottle-necked warheads, multiple re-entry vehicles (MRVs)—suggests that Tehran is pursuing a missile program that can defeat the missile defence systems of its adversaries, and cruise missiles could be a credible counter measure against enemy ballistic missile defence systems.
In March 2015, Iran declared that it had developed a long-range cruise missile with a range of 2500km called the Soumar, named after the Iranian town destroyed by Iraqi chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). This advanced surface-to-surface missile can hit targets with higher precision and greater accuracy than its predecessors and has modern navigation and propulsion systems. The range of this missile can be increased to 3000km with external fuel tanks. Brigadier General Hossein Deqhan, the Iranian Defence Minister, said that the successful test of this missile was a “crucial” and “effective” step “toward increasing the country’s defence and deterrence might.” According to Deqhan, the cruise missile is able to eliminate various targets and is equipped with radar in order to improve the accuracy of the missile.
The Soumar cruise missile can target Middle Eastern and Southern European countries. Though the missile resembles the Soviet era Kh-55 cruise missile, it was bought from Ukraine and reverse-engineered in Iran. The Soumar can be launched from the sea or from land and is able to perform pop-up manoeuvres during flight, which further enhances the credibility of the missile system. Also, it might be a variant of the “Meshkat” cruise missile that the Iranians have been trying to develop for some time.
Despite the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on Iran restricting the development of ballistic missiles, Tehran has continued to develop and modernize its arsenals. However, the likelihood of U.S. and Israeli ballistic missile defence being able to intercept Iranian ballistic missiles may be the reason why Tehran has kept the option of cruise missiles as a component of its deterrence capability. Also, as Tehran aspires to develop and produce smart weapons for Iran’s armed forces, the government is working towards the development of a new generation of advanced weapon systems, and the Soumar is an example of this effort.