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Air Defense: Another Iranian Triumph
   Next Article → PROCUREMENT: Rule Britannia
April 13, 2010: Iran announced that it has developed a new anti-aircraft missile system, based on the half century old American Hawk system. The U.S. sold Iran Hawk systems in the 1970s, and Iran has tried to keep these in service ever since. It is believed that Iran obtained key components for their new missile system from China. Iran says it is manufacturing and deploying their new system.

Four years ago, Iran claimed to have modified Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to be fired from F-14 aircraft, as an air-to-air missile. In theory it's possible, but practicality is another matter. Iran received F-14s from the United States in the 1970s, the only export customer for this U.S. Navy fighter.

The 1970s era Hawk missiles the Iranians have are probably no longer fit for use, as none of the components, especially the solid rocket fuel, lasts that long. But it is possible that the Iranians have managed to keep these missiles working via smuggled, Chinese manufactured or homemade, parts. The Hawk is a 17 foot long, 1,300 pound missile, with a range (when fired from the ground) of some 40 kilometers. Fired in air-to-air mode, it could go 100 kilometers or more.

Consider that the F-14 was designed to fire the Phoenix missile, which was 13 feet long, weighed 1,000 pounds and had a range of nearly 200 kilometers. None of the Phoenix missiles Iran had in the late 1970s, are believed to be still operational. Indeed, the U.S. technicians who were maintaining the Iranian missiles, apparently disabled them before they left the country. The new Iranian government never got their Phoenix missiles working, although they claim they did, and claim to have built their own copies of the Phoenix. These mythical missiles have never been used in a confirmed combat situation, even during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

Both the Hawk and Phoenix have the same type of guidance system (semi-active radar homing.) Basically, the missile homes in on the radar signals, from a ground or airborne radar, bouncing off the target. So, in theory, the Iranians could have modified Iranian made Hawks to use the F-14 radar.

However, there's something else to consider. If you go back and look at the many Iranian announcements of newly developed, high tech, weapons, all you find is a photo op for a prototype. Production versions of these weapons rarely show up.   Iranians know that, while the clerics and politicians talk a tough game, they rarely do anything. Even Iranian support of Islamic terrorism has been far less effective than the rhetoric. The Iranians have always been cautious, which is one reason Arabs fear them. When the Iranians do make their move, it tends to be decisive. But at the moment, the Iranians have no means to make a decisive move. Their military is mostly myth, having been run down by decades of sanctions, and the disruptions of the 1980s war with Iraq. Their most effective weapon is bluster, and, so far, it appears to be working.

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trenchsol       4/13/2010 8:10:05 AM
F-14 Tomcat is (not "was", since Iran is still using them) capable of carrying 6 Phoenix missiles. Two under the wings and four under the fuselage. Those four are pretty tightly packed, and I doubt that the larger Hawks could fit. So, it leaves only two hardpoints under the wings.

As I said before, I believe that majority of Iranian "announcements" serves as justification for the money spent somewhere else. Iran is major exporter of crude oil, but living standard is modest at best. Population is very unhappy, as we have seen last year. So, a "defense efforts" might serve as an excuse.

DG
 
 
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Skylark       4/13/2010 3:33:03 PM
      I would be curious to see how the ground-to-air Hawk missile could be fired successfully from a Tomcat, without the plane being damaged or destroyed in the attempt. 
 
     One problem the Iranians may encounter is when they compare the Hawk to the Phoenix, the Hawk has larger control fins.  This means that, either the fins will have to be cut back, reducing missile flight performance, or a rig will need to be bolted to the F14's underbelly that will allow for the wider fins which will rob the Tomcat of speed and performance due to increased drag. 
 
     The other problem is the Phoenix missile, as I understand it, is designed to drop away from the Tomcat before it can fire so the blast from the motor doesn't damage the aircraft.  This necessitated a feature specially built into the missile's homing seeker to prevent it from flying up and hitting the launch aircraft once it activated.  The Hawk is not built with a delay feature so the blast will likely damage the Tomcat on launch, while, if a delay mechanism were somehow jury rigged into it, the homing mechanism could conceivably lock onto the F14 that launched it while flying supersonic.  Test footage of an IAF Tomcat firing the Hawk SAM could prove be a very popular video if it ever managed to make its way onto Youtube!
 
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warpig       4/13/2010 8:35:25 PM

      I would be curious to see how the ground-to-air Hawk missile could be fired successfully from a Tomcat, without the plane being damaged or destroyed in the attempt. 

 

     One problem the Iranians may encounter is when they compare the Hawk to the Phoenix, the Hawk has larger control fins.  This means that, either the fins will have to be cut back, reducing missile flight performance, or a rig will need to be bolted to the F14's underbelly that will allow for the wider fins which will rob the Tomcat of speed and performance due to increased drag. 

 

     The other problem is the Phoenix missile, as I understand it, is designed to drop away from the Tomcat before it can fire so the blast from the motor doesn't damage the aircraft.  This necessitated a feature specially built into the missile's homing seeker to prevent it from flying up and hitting the launch aircraft once it activated.  The Hawk is not built with a delay feature so the blast will likely damage the Tomcat on launch, while, if a delay mechanism were somehow jury rigged into it, the homing mechanism could conceivably lock onto the F14 that launched it while flying supersonic.  Test footage of an IAF Tomcat firing the Hawk SAM could prove be a very popular video if it ever managed to make its way onto Youtube!



 
Just as Trenchsol reasoned, the only photos and videos of carriage of HAWK on Iranian F-14s that I've seen show one on each wing pylon, for a total load-out of two HAWK missiles.  I have seen some video of captive carry, and Phaid once posted here several years ago that he'd seen a video of a launch, but I never have and would love to see that video.  There are many threads on SP that mention this match-up, and this one includes a photo of an F-14 sitting on the ground with a missile mated to the wing pylon.
*ttp://www.strategypage.com/militaryforums/6-28574.aspx
 
Like sooooo many other military-related programs/projects/ideas announced by the Iranians, this one is just another case of bullcrap.  When it comes to exaggerating their domestic military developments, the Iranians are just about the biggest bunch of liars I can think of.
 
 
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Skylark       4/13/2010 9:29:12 PM
     Mounting a missile as large and heavy as the Hawk on the Tomcat's wing pylon is an incredibly bad idea.  According to what I have read about it, the wing pylon on the F14 can carry one AIM 120 and one AIM 9 to a total carry capacity of just under 1200 lbs each.  The Hawk weighs around 1380 lbs so that mount is carrying in excess of 150 lbs of weight over the maximum specified limit so the IAF Tomcats are going to be experiencing excessive wear and probably some cracking problems on an aircraft that is already well past it's prime.   So, like you, I have to call B.S. on this one, at least as far as actual deployment of this weapons combo is concerned.  There is no way the Iranians can afford to toss away their only real interceptor over anything this wacky.
 
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RtWingCon       4/14/2010 12:34:35 AM

     Mounting a missile as large and heavy as the Hawk on the Tomcat's wing pylon is an incredibly bad idea.  According to what I have read about it, the wing pylon on the F14 can carry one AIM 120 and one AIM 9 to a total carry capacity of just under 1200 lbs each.  The Hawk weighs around 1380 lbs so that mount is carrying in excess of 150 lbs of weight over the maximum specified limit so the IAF Tomcats are going to be experiencing excessive wear and probably some cracking problems on an aircraft that is already well past it's prime.   So, like you, I have to call B.S. on this one, at least as far as actual deployment of this weapons combo is concerned.  There is no way the Iranians can afford to toss away their only real interceptor over anything this wacky.
Devil's advocate- I don't disagree with anything said so far, but I think we are thinking in terms of western practicalities instead of Iran's. Who are they going to engage in a air-to-air fight? The USA or it's allies with US weapons? Either way, their aircraft of any type is likely on a one way mission, so wear and tear on the aircraft is not a factor IMO. Their strategy may be based on inflicting as much damage as possible for the western press to freak out on. When you think about it we have been spoiled with the success of our aircraft and pilots abilities, if the IAF managed to shoot down just a handful of our stuff the media would go apesh*t over it nevermind the IAF would have been annihilated in the process. They may have a small but important goal to achieve knowing they would be sacrificing their airforce. Goal might be achieved without further damage to their infrastructure/forces if the western media gets hysterical over a few losses. This really doesn't make sense, but Iran's leadership is stone cold nuts so anything is possible.
 
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