Soumar Cruise Missile

06-17-2015 by Brittany Marien

Development

The Soumar is a ground-launched long ranged cruise missile whose design bears close resemblance to Russia’s Kh-55. Analysts believe that the Soumar’s range is comparable to the Kh-55 which has a range of 2,500 km.[1]

Little is confirmed about the technical specifications of the Soumar cruise missile as it has yet to be flight tested. According to Iranian news source Press TV, the Soumar possess “pinpoint accuracy” compared to previous cruise missile developments and can, “hit within 50 meters of its pre-designated target.”[2] Photographs and videos reveal that the missile’s nose lacks a sensor which means it is possibly guided by GPS/INS navigation system.[3]

In 2005, Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschchenoki confirmed that Ukraine had previously sold 6 Russian Kh-55 missiles to Iran in 2001.[4] Although receiving missiles in 2001, Iran did not admit to having a cruise missile program until 2012 when Iran displayed its first cruise missile prototype, Meshkat. Tehran claims through its state run news agency Press TV that it has attained “self-sufficiency in producing advanced military equipment and missile systems” in their home grown defense sector.[5] Iran’s Defense Chief communicated to Press TV that “upgraded versions [of Soumar] will be unveiled in the next Iranian calendar year (21 March 2016).”[6]

Iranian experts at the Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) were quoted by Press TV as saying that the Soumar can “hit a broad range of targets in all circumstances” and “relies on high tactical capabilities, long survival over battlefield, and radar-evading properties”.[7]

Strategic Implications

If the Soumar possesses the same range as the Russian Kh-55, then it is projected that Iran could hit targets throughout the Middle East and Eastern/Southern Europe.[8] Concerns about indigenously built turbofan engines raise concerns about Iran’s range estimates. Iran faces difficulty keeping its jets and helicopters flying due to the 1984 US sanctions regime placed on Iran which included the prohibited the sale of aircraft parts. It is harder to produce a small turbofan engine for a cruise missile than it is to produce a standard-sized engine.[9]

Russian forces Kh-55 missiles were originally launched from a Tupolev Tu-160 and capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It is believed that Iran does not possess large bombers to deliver the Soumar similarly to the Kh-55, and there are no reports to confirm whether the missile, itself, is nuclear capable.[10]

Iran’s lack of bomber aircraft has pushed it to engineer the Soumar as a ground-launched cruise missile. Due to their small size, cruise missiles can be launched from a variety of platforms.[11]Russia Today reported that the Soumar could be mounted on a road-mobile missile system.[12]

Iranian officials have claimed that the Soumar cruise missile boosts Iran’s defensive and deterrent power. Tehran argues that the Soumar does not threaten regional security because the development of the weapon is deterrence-based.[13] US and Israel ballistic missile defense systems are capable of intercepting Iranian ballistic missiles, which can offer a possible explanation why Tehran has pursued cruise missiles as a deterrent. Regional states find the Soumar cruise missile threatening because it is hard to detect and destroy left of launch. When compared to intercepting ballistic missiles, cruise missiles fly at subsonic speeds and are easier to destroy, but its ability to fly at low altitudes, hide behind terrain features, and below radar detection makes discrimination more difficult.[14]

[1] Pfeffer, Anshel. “Iran unveils new long-range cruise missile” Haaretz (8 March 2015) http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.645898

[2] Pfeffer, Anshel

[3] Ben-David, Alon. “Iran Produces First Long-Range Missile” Aviation Week (14 March 2015) www.Aviationweek.com/defense/iran-produces-first-long-range-missile

[4] Mendenhall, Preston. “Ukraine leader confirms missile sales to Iran” NBC News http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7349303/ns/world_news/t/ukraine-leader-confirms-missile-sales-iran/#.VXnwHWRViko

[5] Kazemi, Amir Mehdi

[6] Kazemi, Amir Medhi. “Iran’s Soumar Cruise Missile” Press TV (8 March 2015) http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/03/08/400866/Irans-Soumar-Cruise-Missile

[7] Kazemi, Amir Medhi.

[8] Pfeffer, Anshel

[9] Binnie, Jeremy. “Iranian cruise missile unveiling raises questions about range” Janes (17 March 2015) http://www.janes.com/article/49998/analysis-iranian-cruise-missile-unveiling-raises-questions-about-range

[10] Ghoshal, Debalina. “Political and Strategic Signal behind Iran’s new Soumar cruise missile” Delhi Policy Group (April 2015)

[11] Pfeffer, Anshel

[12]“Iran army unveils its new Soumar long-range missile” Russia Times (8 March 2015) http://rt.com/news/238837-iran-unveils-cruise-missile/

[13] Kazemi, Amir Mehdi

[14] Pfeffer, Anshel

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