Iran’s “New” Land-Attack Cruise Missile In Context

February 5, 2019

Long War Journal – While Iran’s habitual ballistic missile tests and transfers easily make international headlines, the country’s other projectiles – specifically its cruise missiles – seldom get the same top-billing. But on Saturday, international outlets cited Iranian press reporting on a new land-attack cruise missile (LACM), and its subsequent test-firing. Such developments in the Islamic Republic should not be treated as a one-off, even if the missile may not be an original. Iran is developing a diverse missile capability, one that will be able to deliver both conventional and unconventional payloads, as well as take advantage of different flight trajectories – be they cruise or ballistic.

Iran’s “newest” cruise missile, dubbed the Hoveizeh, is a LACM that can reportedly travel 1,350 kilometers (km) and according to Iran’s defense minister, was successfully flight-tested at 1,200 km. Iranian sources attest that the Hoveizeh is a variant of the Soumar LACM – which was first unveiled in 2015. The Soumar is an Iranian copy of the subsonic Soviet Kh-55 that Iran illicitly procured from Ukraine in 2001.

What makes the Soumar and Hoveizeh different from the Kh-55 is that the Kh-55 is air-launched from strategic bombers (which Iran does not have). Conversely, both Iranian LACMs are surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) that appear to be launched from canisters and use a solid-rocket booster. Both the Soumar and the Hoveizeh were unveiled with grid/lattice fins attached to the rocket booster at their tail end. A 2015 launch video of the Soumar shows this booster dropping-off seemingly prior to entering the midcourse portion of the flight. Depending on the exact speed the missile is traveling, grid fins can provide enhanced steering and less drag. Given that the Soumar and Hoveizeh travel at subsonic speeds, it is unclear what value the grid fins provide, especially if they remain only for the boost phase.

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