PADAJA’s Regional Air-Defence Network
Command-and-control at the regional level is provided by the IRIADF’s or Khatam al-Anbiya Air-Defence HQ’s (PADAJA) nine regional commands, each headquartered in a sector operations center (SOC). These are sometimes referred to as divisions. Each region has authority over a number of air-defence groups—each equivalent to a Brigade—and independent sites for radars. The regional commands are as follows:
1) Northern Region: Headquartered in Teheran, it spans part or all of the Teheran, Alborz, and Mazandaran provinces.
2) Central Region: Headquartered in Isfahan, it spans part or all of the Isfahan, Qom, and Markazi provinces. Its command is co-located with that of TAB-8.
3) Northwest Region: Headquartered in Tabriz, it spans East and West Azerbaijan, Ardebil, Zanjan, and part of Kurdistan province. Its command is co-located with that of TAB-2.
4) Western Region: Headquartered in Hamedan, it spans parts of Kurdistan and Markazi provinces, as well as Hamedan, Kermanshah, Ilam, and Lorestan. Its command is co-located with that of TAB-3.
5) Southwest Region: Headquartered at an unknown location—likely co-located with existing air bases at Omidiyeh or Dezful—it spans the Khuzestan province and parts of nearby Kohgiluyeh va Boyer Ahmed. It includes at least four groups (Ahvaz, Dezful, Omidiyeh, Behbahan). It is frequently referred to as the 4th Air-Defence Region.
6) Southern Region: Headquartered in Bandar Bushehr, it spans the Bushehr and Shiraz provinces, as well as Kharg Island.
7) Southeast Region: Headquartered in Bandar Abbas, it spans the Hormozgan province, and part of Sestan-Baluchistan, as well as the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding islands. It is frequently referred to as the 6th Air-Defence Region.
8) Eastern Region: Headquartered in Birjand, it spans South Khorasan, parts of Sestan-Baluchistan and Razavi Khorasan, and all of the Yazd and Kerman provinces.
9) Northeast Region: Headquartered in Mashhad, it spans the Razavi and North Khorasan provinces, as well as parts of Golestan. Its command is located at TAB-14.
During the days of monarchy in the 1970s, the ground-based air-defence network comprised MIM-23A/B Hawk MR-SAMs (150 missiles acquired in 1966, 39 launchers and 1,811 missiles worth $687 million acquired between 1974 and 1979), and 81 Rapier SHORADS launchers with 2,450 missiles. During the Iran-Iraq War, 25 Hawk launchers and 235 missiles were delivered by the US via Israel in 1986 under the Iran-Contra deal.
Ground-based air-defence cannons in-service included 100 Oerlikon Contraves GDF-003 35mm systems procured in 1975 with related 50 Super-Fledermaus fire-control radars, 100 ZSU-57-2 SPAAGs procured from the USSR in 1967 along with 200 second-hand ZSU-23-4 Schilka SPAAGs between 1973 and 1978.
In the late 1980s, Iran also fielded seven Almaz S-200VE Vega LR-SAM Batteries (comprising 42 launchers) with a range of up to 200nm, covering much of the western, central and southern portions of the nation. 10 more S-200VE Batteries were procured from Ukraine in 1992.
Throughout the 1990s, Iran also procured seven HQ-2J (Sayyad-1) MR-SAM Batteries with 356 missiles and three JY-14 radars from China between 1999 and 2001; two self-propelled 2K12/Kvadrat Batteries with 120 3M9 MR-SAMs in 1995-1996, and 29 Tor-M1E TELs and 750 9M338 missiles (for seven Batteries) worth $700 million in early December 2005—all from Russia.
This was followed by the procurement of four S-300PS LR-SAM Batteries (two each from Belarus and Croatia), using 5V55KD missiles) along with related 30N6 and Nebo SVU VHF radars, 36D6 surveillance radars, 76N6 low-altitude detection radars, 30N6 fire-control systems and 5P85-1 launch vehicles.
In 2007, Iran ordered four S-300PMU2 LR-SAM batteries with 150 48N6 missiles worth $800 million from Russia. These were delivered between July and October 2016 and were test-fired in-country on March 4, 2017 during EX Damavand.
Also procured were two 1L119 Nebo SVU mobile solid-state digital VHF-band radars from Russia in 2007 and 2010, and two Kvant 1L222 Avtobaza radar jamming and deception systems in 2011, which operate over the Ku and X bands (8-18 GHz frequency range)and whose effective range is 150km. Each Avtobaza covers a 360-degree hemisphere, monitoring up to 60 targets simultaneously.
In the VSHORADS/MANPADS and SHORADS arenas, Iran procured from China 500 HN-5A missiles between 1986 and 1988, 1,100 QW-1s (Misagh-1/Vanguard) between 1996 and 2006, and 650 QW-2/Misagh-2 between 2006 and 2015, and six Batteries of Shahab Thaqeb/FM-80 SHORADS with 250 missiles.
As far as domestic innovations go, a motorised version of the ZSU-57-2, called ‘Bahaman’ has been developed. This system comprises two 57mm air-cooled S-68 guns that are fed from magazines. Each magazine holds four rounds. The Bahaman fires fragmentation-tracers against airborne targets and armour-piercing tracers against ground-based targets.
For defence against land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), Iran contracted China’s Sichuan Hua King Machinery Manufacturing Co to develop the ‘Asefeh’ 3-barrel 23mm cannon that has a rate of fire of 1,500 rounds per minute. It fires both 23 x 115 or 23 x 152 cartridges. The 23 x 152 round is licence-manufactured by the Iranian Defence Industries Organisation (DIO) and is used with the ZU-23-2 family of light anti-aircraft guns. It has an average overall length of 237mm and a belt diameter of 35mm. The use of a larger round and heavier projectile with the ‘Asefeh’ produces a higher recoil force. The 23 x 152 case is belted. The ‘Asefeh’ entered service in late 2013.
In the early 1990s, Teheran decided to replace its MIM-23 and HQ-2J MR-SAMs with a new-generation system that could be used for both ground-based air-defence as well as naval air-defence. Accordingly, some examples of the IRIN’s in-stock RIM-66 Standard MR-SAMs (128 of which were procured between 1976 and 1978) were supplied to both Russia and China for re-engineering.
In Russia, the Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design (NIIP), the Novator Design Bureau, the Altair Design Bureau, the Dolgoprudniy Scientific and Production Plant, MNII Agat and Mariyskiy Machine-Building Plant were tasked with developing the two variants of the MR-SAM.
In China, the China National Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp (CPMIEC) led the re-engineering effort. The Russian end-products were the Buk-M1E for ground forces, and the naval 3S90E Shtil-1—both of which used the 9M317ME missile.
In Iran, this system became known as ‘Ra’ad’ (Thunder) while the missile was called ‘Ta’er-2’. CPMIEC’s solution was the LY-80 family of vertically-launched MR-SAMs. Following competitive evaluations, Iran selected CPMIEC’s solution and thus was born the ‘Sayyad-2’ MR-SAM for ground-based air-defence, and the LY-80N naval variant, known in Iran as ‘Mehrab’.
CPMIEC has in the previous decade also supplied 24 S-band target detection radars (the same used by China’s LY-60 SHORADS) for replacing the Oerlikon Contraves-supplied Skyguard/Super Fledermaus fire-control systems. This is known in Iran as the ‘Kashef-1’ radar.
As for the much-touted Bavar-373 air-defence system, it is in reality a trilateral industrial cooperation project involving China, North Korea and Iran that had commenced way back in 2004. While CETC Int’l of China has developed and supplied the Qamar active phased-array engagement radar and the YLC-2V ‘Meraj’ 3-D S-band early warning radar, the Sayyad-3 LR-SAM is a re-engineered HQ-9 missile produced by North Korea for its Pon’gae-5/KN-06 LR-SAM system). The complete Bavar-373 system will be ready for service-induction by 2020.
As an interim measure, the PADAJA has undertaken a limited upgrade of its stockpiles of MIM-23 MR-SAMs. Known as the ‘Mersad’ air-defence system, each Battery uses four types of radars.
The target detection radar, called ‘Kavosh’, is an upgraded clone of the original MPQ-50 and its maximum range has been increased to 150km and an IFF transponder has been added. A new continuous-wave acquisition radar called ‘Jouiya’ is used to detect and track low-altitude airborne targets.
The high-power illuminator (called ‘Hadi’) is an upgraded version of the MPQ-46, with an additional optronic tracker being attached. For area air-defence, the Mersad uses a 250km-range ‘Hafez’ early warning radar. The re-lifed missiles are now called ‘Shaheen’.
On May 25, 2014 the PADAJA unveilled two new systems. These were: 1) ‘Fakour’ fibre-optic command-and-control system, which is responsible for gathering, fusing, and distributing tactical information within the IRIADF’s sectors. 2) The ‘Rasool’ secure communications system, which is responsible for linking the Matla ul-Fajr and Fath-14 VHF-band radars with other elements of the air-defence network.
The Fakour is employed as a command-post for fusing and distributing sensor information at the tactical-level. This means gathering data from a range of active/passive sensors, which is next fuzed to produce a unified situational awareness picture of the airspace that in turn can be used to cue airborne and ground-based air-defence weapons. Based on descriptions of the Fakour’s compatibility with the IRIADF’s sector-operations-centres (SOC), it can be inferred that the Fakour will be deployed within existing SOCs. The Fakour itself comprises three elements: The Operations Section, which is mounted on a large containerised trailer, and is responsible for processing received data and using it to plan and coordinate subordinate operations through seven workstations. The Communications Section, which is mounted on a smaller containerised trailer and is responsible for signals reception and transmission. This helps protect the operations section by allowing it to function without emitting. For intra-system communications, the different sections are linked by fibre-optic or conventional cables, and for external communications this section is equipped with HF, VHF, UHF, AM/FM, and microwave radios, which can be used for audio and data transfer (at a reported rate of 32mbit/s). The Communications-Relay Section is equipped with a truck-mounted microwave relay station. All elements of Fakour were supplied by China’s CETC Int’l.
The ‘Rasool’ is a fibre-optic communications node associated with VHF-band target acquisition radars. It can be used to integrate the radar with other elements of a local air-defence network, or with distant command-and-control centres. The Matla ul-Fajr radar family includes the MuF-1 and MuF-2, which are upgraded derivatives of the Soviet-era P-12/18 radars. Both operate in the VHF bandwidth, which has led to them being described as counter-stealth radars. They are visually characterised by their distinctive Yagi-style antennae arranged in rows on a retractable mast mounted on a containerised trailer. The MuF-1 is a 2-D (range, azimuth) radar with a maximum range of 300km and altitude of 20km. It is characterised by its 12 antennae arrayed in two rows of six. The MuF-2 is a 3-D (range, azimuth, height) radar with a maximum range of 480km. It is characterised by its 32 antennae arrayed in four rows of eight.
The ‘Rasool’ comprises two vehicles: a communications shelter, and a relay station. The latter is the same as the one used with the Fakour, and comprises a truck-mounted microwave station (32 mbit/s capacity). The communications shelter, mounted on an Iveco 4 x 4, is fitted with HF, VHF, UHF, and microwave radios, and associated encryption and recording hard/software.
Linking the Rasool with the radar itself is via fibre-optic wiring. An example of how the Rasool is employed can be found at the Fordow fuel enrichment plant (FFEP), and the air-defence group assigned to protect it. Assets deployed for the FFEP’s point-defence include one MuF-1 radar for two half-strength MIM-23 Batteries, and a handful of ZU-23-2 Batteries, plus a small truck fitted with a mast-mounted microwave transmitter, and a larger containerised Battary command port trailer, which itself is linked to a smaller container with an unknown roof-mounted transmitter/receiver.
Presently, the PADAJA exercises command-and-control over 24 air-defence radar stations and 41 active SAM sites inside Iran. The HQ-2J sites are shown in red, MIM-23 sites are orange, S-200VE sites are purple, 2K12/Kvadrat sites are bright green, and Tor-M1E sites are faded green. There are seven active HQ-2J sites, 22 active MIM-23 sites. seven active S-200VE sites, six SAM deployment locations with two sites occupied by 2K12/Kvadrat Batteries, with the remaining four being occupied by Tor-M1Es.
In addition, there are 31 unoccupied, prepared HQ-2J sites, and seven S-200VE Batteries spread throughout the country. The four northernmost S-200VE sites are positioned to defend the northern borders and the region surrounding the capital of Teheran. A fifth site is for defending facilities in and around Isfahan in central Iran, including the Natanz nuclear facility.
The last two sites are at Bandar Abbas and Bushehr and provide coverage over the Strait of Hormuz and the northern half of the Persian Gulf, respectively. There are five key areas defended by MR-SAM systems: Teheran, Isfahan, Natanz, Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas. HQ-2J sites are currently 33% occupied, with MIM-23 sites being approximately 50% occupied. Teheran is defended by five MIM-23 sites, two HQ-2J Batteries, and a 2K12/Kvadrat Battery.
There are also four empty sites in the same area. The southwestern two sites are prepared for HQ-2Js, while the northwest and southeast sites are prepared for MIM-23s. Were the empty sites to be occupied, they would form an inner MIM-23 barrier and an outer HQ-2J barrier oriented to defend against threats from the west and south.
However, this layout is a legacy leftover from the Iran-Iraq War. Two S-200VE sites are also in the vicinity, and the other two S-200VE sites to the east and west also provide limited coverage of the capital. There are two MIM-23 sites and one HQ-2J site in the vicinity of Isfahan. One of the MIM-23 sites, as well as the S-200VE site in the area, is located on the grounds of TAB-8, with the MIM-23 site situated to provide point-defence of the air base. The HQ-2J site and the remaining MIM-23 site are located south of Isfahan proper. An empty MIM-23 site is also located in Isfahan, representing a dispersal site for the Battery at TAB-8.
Nuclear-related industrial facilities near Natanz are afforded layered, hierarchical air-defence coverage by SHORADS and MR-SAMs. Natanz is defended by one HQ-2J site, three MIM-23 sites, one 2K12/Kvadrat battery, and four Tor-M1E TELARs. The SHORADS and MR-SAMs were first deployed between September 2006 and September 2009. The Bushehr region is defended by four MIM-23 sites and an HQ-2J Battery. Two MIM-23 sites are located on the grounds of the Bushehr military complex, with a third site being located offshore on Kharg Island, while the HQ-2J Battery is located further inland from the military complex nearer to Choghadak. TAB-6 is also home to an S-200VE Battery. There are three unoccupied HQ-2J sites and a single unoccupied MIM-23 site in the area as well. Three unoccupied sites are situated around the nuclear complex, perhaps suggesting that any weapons-related work has been moved from the facility to one of the various inland nuclear R & D locations, such as Natanz. This would appear to be a sensible course of action, given the serious vulnerability of the coastal Bushehr nuclear facility to enemy activity approaching from the Persian Gulf region. The remaining unoccupied HQ-2J site is located on an islet northeast of Kharg Island. Bandar Abbas is defended by one HQ-2J Battery and one MIM-23 Battery. There is also an S-200VE site in the region.