Does Iranian ‘Iron Dome’ speak Zulu ? Military expert Alexander Portnoy reveals


Iran IranIran has claimed to have successfully experimented its “Integrated Air Defense Network” as part of its military exercise ‘Sky Defenders Velayat 1400’. Nowadays, “an efficient anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy protects anti-access capabilities with area-denial threats. That is often performed in the sky using an Integrated Air Defense System (IADS) composed of AWACS, drones, and surface-to-air missile systems. That allows for a net-centric path in which information can be shared adequately between multiple military realities.

In an opinion piece in the Times of Israel, the military expert Alexander Portnoy explains that the Iranian Army AD Force, IRGC Air Force, and the Aerospace Force were involved in this recent decentralized air defense training to approve IADS interoperability between different sections. Portnoy reveals that two new homemade Very Short-Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) were uncovered during this exercise.

The AD-08 “Majid” utilized a new design of Azarakhsh air-to-air missile believed to be reverse-engineered from the American AIM-9 Sidewinder rocket. For detecting and targeting the enemies, it got the privilege of combining an electro-optical module (probably Seraj) and radar Kashef-99 with a range of 30 km. Thus, it could beat targets in a range of 8 km. Another unnamed VSHORAD unmentioned among the known Iranian A.D. systems have shown above was involved too. This VSHORAD, likely named Khatam, aroused great interest in foreign media, hastening to equate it with Israeli “Iron Dome.”

But these two different VSHORAD’s – Portnoy adds – have nothing in common except the slightly similar form of the implemented modular multi-missile launch canisters. In addition, Iranian VSHORAD utilizes the formation of Transporter Erector Launcher and Radar (TELAR), which follows the deployment of radar on the launcher vehicle. According to the Iranian Tasmin News report, this guarantees the maximum concentration of system elements. But this technical approach makes it a challenge for the adversaries to disrupt the radar with Electronic Warfare (E.W.) measures combined with Anti-Radiation (A.R.) missiles.

Someone can assume the shown VSHORAD has more in common with Umkhonto (Spear in Zulu) ground-based launcher (GBL) produced by Denel Dynamics primarily for the South African Army’s ground-based air defense system (GBADS) terms. For the first time, GBL Umkhonto, whose construction initially began for naval needs in 1993, was exhibited at the Africa Aerospace & Defense 2010 show in Cape Town, finally tested in 2016. In a bizarre deal decade ago, the South African telecommunications company MTN Group secured a lucrative multi-billion telecommunications deal in Iran in trade for various technologies that Tehran ordered. Among these requests, helicopter and drones’ technology and aid for Iran’s nuclear program.

Alexander Portnoy affirms that perhaps the latest iteration of Iran’s Ababil looks much different from its predecessor generations on its blog. Though it still uses a pusher configuration, the “Ababil 3” is strikingly similar to South African Denel Seeker — which may be either a reverse-engineered copy or simply straight-up rebadged. In March 2017, South Africa hoped to sell some R1.5 billion worth of weapons to Iran, including Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles (SAM). The Denel Dynamics Umkhonto-IR Block2 surface-to-air missile initially contracted with a 12 km reach, but this was extended to 15 km.

Denel has proved it can reach out to 20 km, with a cover of 8 000 meters. Moreover, it touches speeds of around Mach 2.5. In 2013, Denel Dynamics fired the defense from the land for the first time – the system was initially destined for naval applications. The Umkhonto missile is paired with a radar used to detect and track specific targets for the rocket to engage.

According to Alexander Portnoy, Iran likely replaced Swedish surveillance and fire-control radars with homemade Iranian clones made with foreign aid. According to Portnoy, it seems Denel’s employees initiated a partnership with IRGC without permission from the United Nations Security Council to sell their SAMs and the related Know-How to Iran.



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