Air Defense: Iran Scrambles to Defend Itself


May 29, 2007: Iran just got ten Russian mobile anti-aircraft systems from Syria. These are the 96K6 Pantzyr systems, a truck mounted version of the Tunguska M1 self-propelled system, which is mounted on a tracked, armored personnel carrier chassis.

The Tunguska M1 systems cost about $17 million each (including spares, maintenance support and extra missiles). The current version of the Tunguska entered service in 1998, and over 300 of both versions have been manufactured so far. The 96K6 Pantzyr is new, and meant mainly as a less expensive (about $12 million each) export version.

Both versions are vehicles that carries radar, two 30mm cannon (with 1,936 rounds of ammo) and eight 9M311 (SA-19) missiles (plus up to four missiles for reloads). The missiles have a ten kilometer range against air targets, and six kilometers against ground targets. The missile can hit targets at up to 26,000 feet. The 30mm cannon is effective up to 10,000 feet, and can hit ground targets 4,000 meters away. The vehicle has a crew of three. The fire control system can use line-of-sight, as well as radar, guidance. The new version makes it easier to use the missiles, or guns, against ground targets. The 88 pound missile (also called Tnnguska, or 9m311) has a 20 pound warhead, and a lot of velocity when hitting something. As a bunker buster, it would be useful. The Russians have also noted that, since World War II, few of these self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons get an opportunity to shoot at something in the air, but there are alwasy targets on the ground.

Russia had earlier sold Iran 29 Tor-M1 (known to NATO as the SA-15 Gauntlet) systems. These are mobile anti-aircraft missile launchers, with a maximum range of 12 kilometers. It is only effective up to 6000 meters altitude. The system was designed as a successor to the SA-N-8 Gecko. Each launcher carries eight missiles, and it is claimed to be capable of engaging two targets simultaneously. The system was designed to be a tactical battlefield air-defense system, designed to take out close-air-support planes like the A-10 or tactical fighter-bombers like the F-4, F-16, and F-18. Iran has placed them around its nuclear weapons development facilities. Some longer range Russian S-300 systems have been installed to protect the air approaches from the west.

Two months ago, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1747, which put a ban on Iranian exports, and requested that UN members not sell weapons to Iran. Russia, being a security council member, does not want to be seen as violating a resolution it helped pass.




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