In another display of its burgeoning defense technology prowess, Iran test-fired a large air-to-ground missile from a helicopter during military exercises in the country’s central province.
It also dropped glide bombs from tactical unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV), adding more teeth to its ground-warfare capability.
The exercises come at a tense time in the Middle East when fears of a clash between Israel and Iran are rife over the war in Gaza. While not precisely posing a mortal threat to the Israeli military — especially with the absence of a large, functional air force — the frequency of the drills does suggest a high state of military readiness and defense industrial preparedness.
The drills were launched on October 27, which reports suggested were not annual fixtures, indicating a geo-strategic motive behind the maneuvers.
Response To US Navy Aircraft Carriers?
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said it involved various units of the army, “including infantry, armored, missile, artillery, aviation, drones, as well as electronic, modern and cyber warfare units.”
“The exercise, in line with the new organizational structure, focuses on four key features, namely speed, precision, intelligence, and the ability to automate and network military equipment,” the report said. The four features will be “assessed in various stages of the exercise through field evaluations.”
This serves as a signal to Tel Aviv and Washington, particularly given the latter’s two aircraft carrier battle groups sailing in the Mediterranean Sea to deter Iran. A section of geopolitical analysts have begun seeing the American move aimed at the Russo-Iranian strategic coalition in the Middle East, especially in Syria.
Presently, the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group (CSG) are in the Mediterranean Sea in response to the situation in Gaza.
Massive Ground War Exercises
According to a report in Iran’s Press TV, the Eghtedar (Authority) 1402 drills in the Nasrabad region, the Haydar missile was fired by a Bell 214 chopper.
The missile precisely struck the “designated target” from a distance of 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away and “destroyed it.”
The Haydar missile is also reportedly “furnished” with the Global Positioning System (GPS), “enabling the pilot to have complete control over the projectile and navigate it towards the intended target.”
The Bell 214 helicopter, meanwhile, is part of the large inventory of US weapons like the F-4E Phantom II and F-14 Tomcats that Iran acquired from Washington under the Shah-dynasty rule in the 1970s. This was until he was overthrown in the ‘Islamic Revolution’ in 1979 led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Whether the term GPS suggests general satellite navigation from the American GPS constellation of spacecraft or receives ‘satnav’ signals from Russian GLONASS or Chinese Beidou is unclear. But procuring civilian-oriented GPS modules or receivers in military systems is not difficult either, given the wide off-the-shelf commercial availability of the devices.
Localized blocking of a widespread global civilian good, like a satellite navigation system like the GPS, cannot happen from the country of origin (US). It would entail the service being disrupted over a wide area, far beyond the borders of a target country, and disrupt even essential life-saving services in an entire region.
The blocking has to happen from the ground or aerial-based Electronic Warfare (EW) systems that jam or disrupt GPS signals from reaching their receivers. It would largely depend upon Israeli’s technical ingenuity and EW order of battle (ORBAT) to ensure SATNAV signals do not get Iranian systems.
Missile Can Be Repurposed
The Haydar missile, meanwhile, is said to be 3.83 meters long and weighs nearly 40 kilograms. The air-to-ground missile (AGM) can carry a 20-kilogram warhead and can destroy fixed and mobile targets within a range of tens of kilometers.
The missile’s “significant destructive power will be employed to destroy armored units and concrete bunkers of the enemy.” The rocket is a standoff weapon to hold off tanks and large ground formations, especially when they are part of amphibious landings on Iranian coasts.
And as both Russia and the US have shown with surface-to-air missiles (SAM) being repurposed for surface attack roles, Haydar’s modification for anti-shipping action cannot be ruled out either.
Smart Glide Bomb Also Tested
Additionally, during the exercise, Ababil-4 multirole tactical unmanned aerial vehicles dropped indigenously-made “Qaem-5 bombs on mock enemy positions, hitting designated positions at a distance of 7 kilometers away.”
Qaem-5 smart glide bombs are guided by an infrared seeker that enables them to engage with various fixed and mobile targets both at night and day “and in adverse weather conditions.”