Iran Unveils the Khordad 15 Amid Rising Tensions With the US


In June, Iran revealed to the world its upgraded anti-aircraft missile system, the Khordad 15, which was initially launched in 2014. Iran’s announcement coincided with rising tensions in the Gulf region as a result of the deepening standoff between the United States and Iran. This Iran in-depth piece aims to analyze this new anti-aircraft missile system, particularly looking at its defensive and offensive capabilities to determine its level of deterrence as well as to ascertain whether the Iranian regime has boosted its declining legitimacy via this addition to its air defense capabilities at a time in which the regime is at a crossroads, facing internal and external pressures.
According to the Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, the Khordad 15’s Sayyad 3 missiles can bring down fighter jets and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) at a range of 120 kilometers. As per the Khordad 15’s ability to track stealth targets, it can detect them from a distance of 85 kilometers and engage and destroy them within a range of  45 kilometers. F-35A stealth fighters were recently deployed by the US Air Force to the Middle East, and around a dozen are currently in service in the Israeli Air Force out of 50 ordered and with a further 25 planned. The system can be ready to engage targets within five minutes and can engage six targets simultaneously.
Hatami said that the “air defense system is equipped with a phased array radar and independent launch pads and can effectively take action against various aerial targets, such as reconnaissance aircraft, bombers, and tactical warplanes,” according to the Tehran Times. An Iranian video showed a flatbed military truck with a rotating, rectangular launcher on the bed. The launcher appeared to contain four missile canisters in two rows of two canisters each. Another truck appeared to mount a rotating slab-shaped radar antenna. Should the Khordad 15 be manufactured and deployed in large numbers, as well as integrated into the S-300 and S-200 missile systems along with other Iranian air defense systems, it could provide a valuable addition to Iran’s air defense which is currently at considerable risk if conflict with the United States and its Gulf allies was to break out. Tal Inbar, an Israel military aviation expert, said that the Khordad 15 has greater capabilities than other Iranian anti-aircraft missile systems that are based on the US Patriot missile and the Russian S-200 system. “The Iranian systems cannot match Western-made ones, but their industry is [making] huge efforts to improve the products,” he said.
This was demonstrated on June 20, when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) boasted that the Khordad 15 shot down the US Global Hawk drone, one of Washington’s most advanced and expensive UAVs. A US official speaking on the condition of anonymity to the Associated Press confirmed that an American military drone had been shot down. The IRGC claimed that the drone was shot down inside the country’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan whereas the United States denied this and declared that it had been shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. The Global Hawk “flies at a very high altitude, so the fact that the Iranians were able to shoot it down shows that they have some pretty significant capabilities,” said Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University.
It appears that Washington may have underestimated Iranian air defense capabilities to patrol its own airspace. This attack could signify a shift in the tense and volatile balance between the two countries. The US military does not have many Global Hawks to spare, and the replacement price is significant. The US military may have discovered that conducting surveillance missions on Iran just got a lot more complicated. For the Iranian regime, the Khordad 15 has given it some respite from its internal economic troubles stemming from escalating US sanctions under its maximum pressure strategy. Also, it has allowed the regime to stir Iranian nationalism, strengthen its legitimacy and unify political factions in the face of growing US pressures particularly after the downing of the US Global Hawk drone.
In addition, the Khordad 15 is likely to empower the IRGC even more particularly in the aftermath of the downing of the US Global Hawk drone, internally as well as externally, in foreign arenas such as Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Given this boost to its confidence, it will be interesting to see if Iran takes up Russia’s new offer of its S-400 defense system after it had initially refused to sell it to Tehran. Russia has confirmed that it has not received a request from Iran on this matter at this moment in time. However, as threats increase, Iran may be forced into buying the S-400 to fortify its defenses, particularly if it follows through with its threats of ending some of its commitments to the JCPOA leading to more international isolation and pressure.

Editorial Team