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Iran phased-array radar claims - bombast or capability leap?

27th April 2020 - 16:00 GMT | by Arie Egozi in Tel Aviv

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Iran last week unveiled two new indigenously developed long-range radar systems, but Israeli experts are downplaying their capabilities.

The Khalij-e Fars ('Persian Gulf') and Moraqeb ('Watchful') radars were announced in a ceremony on 19 April attended by Maj Gen Abdolrahim Mousavi, Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army.

IRNA and other state-run Iranian news agencies reported that Khalij-e Fars is a long-range strategic radar system with an operational range of more than 800km. Officials described it as a phased-array 3D system with modern technology that can detect all conventional and radar-evading targets as well as ballistic missiles.

Reports in Iranian media outlets claimed that Moraqeb (pictured) is another 3D advanced phased-array radar with a range of 400km. It can spot airborne targets with high accuracy and detect different types of small objects at low and medium altitudes, as well as low radar cross-section aircraft and UAVs.

According to the official announcement, both systems were designed and manufactured by Iranian Army air defence experts in cooperation with Iranian technology companies.

Claims of advanced radar capabilities on the part of the Iranians are nothing new, according to Israel-based defence analyst Tal Inbar.

‘Most of the claims are exaggerated to say the least, and many times - including this [occasion] - the "new" equipment is based on known and old systems of foreign origin, or a slight modification of existing systems,’ he told Shephard.

Inbar added that  Iran introduced over-the-horizon radars several years ago but their true performance remains unknown. He said that parts of one 'new' radar resemble the Russian Gamma-DE.

Likewise a senior Israeli expert, speaking to Shephard on condition of anonymity, said ‘the origin of the two [recently announced Iranian radars] is Russia and their real capabilities are not known’.

The expert added that the two radars appear to be phased-array systems, remarking: ‘One is a low-frequency [system], probably VHF, which in principle would include better capabilities to detect small object and stealth platforms.’

Iran is known to receive technical assistance in radar development from China, North Korea and Russia, as noted by Arie Herzog, ex-head of ballistic missile defence in the Israeli MoD.

According to Western and Israeli intelligence agencies, Iran is also spending large sums of money on developing new cruise missiles and upgrading its existing arsenal.

While protection against ballistic missiles has reached a high level of maturity among Iran’s neighbours and adversaries, defensive measures against cruise missiles are still lacking.

For example, cruise missiles were fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen in September 2019 to attack oil installations in Saudi Arabia. Examination of the debris enabled experts to identify the missiles as either the Soumar or Hoveizeh versions of Russian systems.

Arie Egozi

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Arie Egozi


Born in Israel, Arie Egozi served in the IDF and holds a political science and …

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