Iran’s military capabilities vs enemies’ threat (PHOTO)
Head of the Trend Persian service Dalga Khatinoglu
The whispers of possible military strike on Iran has risen again, especially after issuing the IAEA report about probability of military aspects in Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Israel conducted a rare ballistic missile test last week. Some reports suggested that Israel was working to increase the range of its Jericho 3 missile, a dangerous signal to Iran.
The Israel Air Force reports a successful exercise in Sardinia, far from home; Iran says the "likelihood is low" of an Israeli attack, but threatens that his country would respond forcefully.
However, the U.S. considers Iran as the Middle East leader, despite all.
Director of the the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Jr. during his speech in Committee on Armed Services United States Senate in April 2010 said, "The strategic objectives of Iran's leadership are first and foremost, regime survival; making Iran the preeminent regional power". He noted Iran's military personnel could exceed one million in number, trained according to Iran's asymmetric warfare doctrine.
However, to what extent is Iran prepared to defend itself against possible foreign strike of its enemies including Israel, the U.S. and its allies in Persian Gulf and Europe on his disputed nuclear facilities?
Iran's old military power arrangement fall short of new genre wars, Iranian affairs' annalist Dr.Reza Taghizadeh told Trend.
Taghizadeh, a member of the Trend Experts Council, said the nature of military operations completely changed over the past five years, but Iran has not adapted to new conditions yet. He was comparing the capabilities of Iran's military power with Israel and Persian Gulf countries.
"Observing the changes in France, UK, and the U.S. defense strategies (and even Russia) could help us to conclude that their military strength is more focused now on cyber, and electronic wars, but lacking domestic technology in these spheres has kept Iran thrilling behind her arch rivals in the region," he said.
Iran's armed forces are relatively good, but not good enough to defend the country's borders against cyber and air attacks.
Iran's military land forces are divided between the regular army and the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Iran's military capabilities are been kept hidden officially, but some unofficial statistics published by Global Security, Iran's Aerocenter (The aviation & aerospace center of Iran) and Military portals, indicate Iran's total military forces have 662,000-member personnel, including 580,000 in armed forces, 45,000 in air forces and 35,000 in navy forces.
Reuters reported in 2009 that the army comprises about 350,000 men, including 220,000 conscripts and IRGC has another 125,000 men.
There are 1,600 tanks, including 100 domestically made Zulfiqar main battle tanks. A large number of Iran's tanks are elderly British-made Chieftains and U.S.-made M-60s, Soviet-made T-54 and T-55s, T-59s, T-62s (Zulfiqar), and T-72s (Safir) were also part of the inventory.
The majority of Iran's fighter jets are 40 years old. Comparing Iran's air forces with Israel and Arab states of the Persian Gulf, as well as the Fifth Fleet of the United States in the Persian Gulf, Taghizadeh said Iran possesses about 150 fighter jets with only flight capabilities (not necessarily ready to fight). However, Israel enjoys the region's most advanced fighters, whilst Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait altogether hold jet fighters in the amount exceeding that of Iran by 2.5 times more than Iran, plus U.S. fifth fleet holding about 250 modern fighters in Persian Gulf.
On the other hand, according to Taghizadeh, Iran's missiles variety is richer than Israel, but with comparatively low firepower.
"With skipping Israel nuclear warheads, still Tel-Aviv's missiles can reach Iran, but Israel might prefer its strong air forces instead of missile attack on Iran. Iran's latest planes have at least 40 years old, excepting its six domestic Saegheh and Azarakhs fighters without significant military operation capabilities, which were built by "reverse engineering" on Russian MIQ and American F5 fighters," he added.
Iran carried out an air drill in last September with an array of fighter jets, fighter bombers, cargo and transportation planes, including F-4, F-5, F-14, SU-24 fighter-bombers, Mig-29 and the logistic C-130 planes, and Saegheh.
Iran is sought to own roughly 150 to 220 fighters in total with operational ability. During the air show in 2008, some 220 planes flew above Tehran.
Missiles and air defense system
Israel owns both strong air force and missiles power are much stronger than those of Iran.
However, according to Taghizadeh, Iran's missiles could easily attach many targets on southern side of the Persian Gulf, but Israel is more far and protected by air defense systems.
"On the other hand, Iran's missile defense shield is very weak. During Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), Iraq's relatively backward technology can pass simply Iran's border and return. Iran's radar and missile defense systems have not improved significantly since then.
In Israel, four missile defense systems are in varying stages of development: Arrow 2, Arrow 3, and David Sling programs are all joint projects with the United States. The fourth system, Iron Dome, was initially Israel's only fully-indigenous missile defense.
Iran owns 29 Russian Tor-M1 air defense missile systems with 7 km rage, low to mid range Mersad air defense system equipped by domestic Shahin (Falcon) missiles and prepares program for production of anti-aircraft missile systems of long-range by manufacturing domestic Bavar-373 missile defense system.
Iran owns various types of missiles and the most advanced are Shahab 3 missiles with a range of 1,350-2,000 km (each with carriage capacity of 750 kg warheads) and Sejil missile with a range of close to 2,000 km.
Taghizadeh said Iran owns about 700-800 Shahab I, II (similar to Scud A, B) and 100 Shahab III (similar to N-Korean N-dong missile) totally.
According to former head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization and the current president of Rubincon Defense Consulting Ltd Uzi Rubin, Iranian liquid-fuel Shahab-3 missile is able to carry nuclear warhead with tiny changes.
Iran recently announced that it has successfully tested a solid-fuel engine for its Shahab 3. Iran owns Fateh 110 and Sejil - both are solid-fuel guided rockets.
Iran also holds some air-to-air missiles - Fater, Sejil and Sattar 1,2,3,4. It owns Qader marine cruise missile with a range of 200 km, as well as 900-kg smart Qased bombs.
Taghizadeh believes that Iran's navy force is being suffered from obsolescence more than land and air forces.
Iran launched his first homemade Jamaran destroyer in 2006 which brought Iran's frigate arsenal from 3 to 4 and enjoys Joshan frigates (Sina class) missile boats in Persian Gulf as well.
Iran's naval missiles, including Ra'd, Noor, Tondar (similar to Noor but powered by solid rocket booster and range of 50km, Saqeb (modified for submarine launch), Kosar 1, II and III, Nasr, Fajre Darya and Hoot serves Iran's interests in Persian Gulf, as well.
Iran's submarine force currently consists of three Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines (Tareq 901, Noor 902, Yunes 903).
Iranian Navy experienced repeated technical problems with the Kilo-class boats largely because their batteries and cooling systems were not designed for the hot climate in the Persian Gulf.
Iran has Qaaem, Ghadir and Nahang class submarines.
One 500-ton Nahang and four 120-ton Yono-class (also referred to as Qadir or Ghadir-class) midget submarines and wet Al-Sabehat-15 mini submarines designed to plant mines and carry out reconnaissance missions.