Defence Notes

What is the Tor-M1?

10th January 2020 - 12:20 GMT | by Ilker Aktaşoğlu, ​Matt Smith in London

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With Western officials suggesting that Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 was hit by a missile fired from an Iranian Tor-M1 (NATO designation SA-15 Gauntlet) air defence system, what are some of the capabilities of the system?

The Tor-M1 is a tracked, self-propelled system, manufactured by defence giant Almaz-Antey in Russia, which itself has 172 units in service and has promoted the system heavily to its export markets, where it has found considerable success.

At least 235 units have been ordered by seven countries, including 29 acquired by Tehran in 2006 as part of its ongoing strengthening of its advanced air defence capabilities.

Each Tor-M1 is equipped with eight 9M330 or 9M331 missiles which are launched vertically from its turret. 

Acquisition and targeting are provided by a 3D pulse-Doppler radar on top of the vehicle and a phased-array, pulse-Doppler, K-band tracking radar in front. Its primary role is short-range air defence – it has been designed to track and attack aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and cruise missiles flying at medium, low and extremely low altitudes. 

The system can hit targets up to 12km away and up to 23,000ft high, so it would be more than capable of intercepting flight PS752 should this turn out to have been the case.

Iran also has a number of other, very capable short-range air defence systems that it has imported or developed internally over the last 30 years, including Pantsyr-S1 from Russia, QW-1 and QW-11 systems from China and Shahab Thaqeb, an Iranian-developed variant of China's HQ-7 short-range air defence system, itself a copy of Thales' Crotale systems imported by China in the late 1970s.

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