The Iranian Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday the launch of a new missile production line that can target fighter jets, drones, cruise missiles and helicopters. The inauguration ceremony took place in an undisclosed location.
Sayyad 3 missile is a medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missile that has a maximum altitude of 27 km and a maximum range of 120 km. The new missile is an improved Sayyad 2 with redesigned strakes, control fins, and guidance unit at the tail of the missile. Sayyad 3 may be used by the Talash and the Talash-2 air defense system that is currently being developed. Its canister looks identical to the one used by the Sayyad-2, indicating the two missiles are about the same size. Sayyad 3 is able to track 30 targets and can engage simultaneously 12 of them. However, its firing-range is outperformed by other missiles like: Shahab-1 (300 km), Shahab-6 (10 000 km), Sajjil (2 500 km), Ashura (3 000 km), Samen (800 – 1 000 km). The Sayyad 2 that preceded was build based on the US-origin RIM-66 SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) that Iran procured pre-the 1979 Revolution.
The Sayyad 3 missiles are designed and constructed by the scientists and experts in the Aerospace Industry for the Ministry of Defense. The Iranian Ministry of Defense is a command-and-control structure for Iran’s armed forces, giving it operational control over Iran’s ballistic missile development program. In December 2016, Iran conducted a three-day air defense exercise. Participants in the drill included air defense forces of IRIAF, the Islamic Republic of Iran Army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). During the military exercises, the Sayyad 3 missile was tested for the first time.
The launch of the Sayyad 3 missile unfolds against a backdrop of tension between the US and Iran, after new sanctions were imposed against Tehran. The US State Department announced on July 18th that the Administration has nominated 18 state entities, private entities and individuals supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as an Iran-based transnational criminal organization. The actions were taken pursuant to E.O. 13382 for engaging in activities that contributed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery. It was also cited the Executive Order 13581, issued by the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, on July 24th 2011, which targets transnational criminal organizations. Consequently, the State Department designated the IRGC Aerospace Force Self Sufficiency Jihad Organization (ASF SSJO) and the IRGC Research and Self Sufficiency Jihad Organization (RSSJO), for their involvement in Iranian ballistic missile research and flight test launches. In addition, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), designated seven entities and five individuals for engaging in activities in support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
IRGC is one of the largest economic forces in Iran and was accused in the past of terrorist acts in Afghanistan, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United States of America and Yemen. According to the US State Department and the Council for Foreign Relations, IRGC offers material and financial support to other extremist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
The launch of the Sayyad 3 missile production line took place after Saudi Arabia signed a 350 billion USD military deal with the US, the defense equipment being delivered within the next 10 years. The weapons purchased from the US will improve the military capabilities of Saudi Arabia. “We recently witnessed an immense purchase that some countries in the region paid as a ransom to America and they intend to bring weapons into the region, and this purchase was done with the goal of threatening Islamic Iran,” said Hossein Dehghan, the Minister of Defense.
Iran’s ballistic missile program started during the reign of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, but expanded considerably after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. During the following decade, the regime bought its first tactical ballistic missiles – 30 Scuds from Libya. The IRGC soon began reverse engineering projects to reduce its dependence on foreign countries. Iran’s initial focus was on short-range missiles, but given the aftermath of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, Tehran’s objectives expanded to longer-range missiles. The projects were led by the IRGC and the Aerospace Industries Organization, both subordinate structures of the Ministry of Defense. The IRGC began work towards intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability in the late 1990s or early 2000s, but to this date has not tested such weapons.
Today, experts believe Iran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs are closely intertwined. As the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted, “Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD.” Although the agreement between China, France, Germany, European Union, Iran, Russia, Great Britain and The United States does not address ballistic missiles, activities related to their development are restricted for eight years under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, Annex B, Paragraph 3. Since the JCPOA’s announcement, Iran has conducted three ballistic missile tests.
The economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union in 2012 have played an important role in the Iranian economy. In April 2015, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew estimated that Iran’s economy was 15 to 20 percent smaller than it would have been had sanctions not been ratcheted up in 2012. In addition, more than $100 billion in Iranian assets is held in restricted accounts outside the country.