Iran's SAM Coverage

This is the first of a 2 part post focusing on the current and future of Iran's air defence coverage, based on current basing and air defence sites.


I will be relying on work done by Sean O'Connor of IMINT & Analysis blog (he now works for IHS Janes) who already identified existing sites, and in essence modernising the record of what systems are occupying these sites.

But we must first, still, look at the old picture provided by Sean, from his old blog.

there are 41 [Sean miscounted, actually 42] active SAM sites inside Iran. The following image depicts the locations of these sites. [7] HQ-2 sites are red, [22] HAWK sites are orange, [7] S-200 sites are purple, [2] 2K12 sites are bright green, and [4] Tor-M1E sites are faded green.

As you can see, the majority of Iran's air defences in 2010 were outdated. HAWK and HQ-2/Sayyad-1 made up the majority of Iran's medium range air defences. 2K12 Kub and the only modern type, the TOR-M1E, made up short and very short range air defences (VSHORAD) components of the Iranian air defences. 7 S-200 sites (with 2 S-200 missiles on launch rails each) made up the very long range component of the IRIADF.

For the full analysis of Iran's old network, read Sean O'Connor's analysis here.


Full Coverage

Breakdown of Systems

Unfortunately because of the changes in Iran's Air Defence composition I could not keep the colours the same as Sean, so here goes.

S-200VE: 5 sites, in purple. 240 km range.

S-300PMU2: 3 out of 4 batteries deployed. Range rings in red. 200 km range.

HQ-2/Sayyad-1: 4 sites are in yellow. 45 km range.

MIM-23 Hawk: 16 sites are in light blue/turquoise. 45 km range.

2K12 Kub: 2 sites, in dark green. 24 km range.

Tor-M1E: 3 sites in light green. 12 km range.

The dark blue and orange sites look like Talash 2 and 3rd Khordad (with Sayyad-2C missiles) respectively. Both 70 km range.

Changes in Sites

That makes a total of 35 sites. down 7 from 2010. 3 HQ-2 sites have been removed, as have 6 Hawk sites, 1 Tor site, and 2 S-200 sites. However, one of the Hawk sites have been replaced by an S-300 site in Bandar Bushehr. Another has been replaced by a Kub that has been moved from its old site to the new one near Natanz. The HQ-2 site near Vazvan has been replaced by a possible Talash 2 battery armed with Sayyad-2 missiles.

Effect of Changes

By far the biggest change to the IRIADF is the addition of 3 S-300 batteries, with a 4th purchased system to be deployed. The S-300 deployment areas appear to be an attempt to bolster air defences in already important areas like Tehran and Bushehr. These areas, while previously covered by a wide range of very long and medium range defences, did not possess more modern systems like other important sites such as Natanz.

Interestingly, the removed Tor site has had its TELARs sent to another site near Natanz. This displays an intent to focus coverage more, hence making it more difficult for enemy PGMs or aircraft to destroy or jam air defences methodically.

Some systems have moved around all over the country. For example, a Kub battery previously deployed in Tehran has showed up in Natanz. This could reflect the IRIADF wishing to send extra air defence capability to Natanz, since the capability of 2 S-300 systems relieves a significant amount of pressure on Tehran's air defences. Another intriguing move is that of a Hawk system from Bandar Abbas to the island of Abu Musa, right in the middle of the Eastern Persian Gulf, near the Straits of Hormuz. This redeployment increases Iranian area denial capabilities in the Persian Gulf, making a more aggressive stance on air defence systems than a more conventional and defensive stationing at Bandar Abbas.

A slew of deployment reductions in all of Iran's older systems, while appearing negative at first, could actually be a good sign. Deductive reasoning eliminates other possibilities - elimination of excess capacity, systems expiring past usable lifetimes, and budgetary reasons.

  • There is no excess capacity; quite the contrary. Iran's air defences have long been in need of an update, and Iran is undergoing an extensive modernisation campaign for its air defences, observable by the advancements Iran has been making in this technology.
  • Iran can manufacture the systems most affected by the reduction in deployments - the Hawk, and HQ-2, both replaceable by similar Mersad and Sayyad-1 systems.
  • Iran's economy has been expanding, not contracting, and an injection of cash from the nuclear deal is available. Furthermore, Iran's air defence modernisation means it has allocated an at least sufficient budget for the IRIADF.
By eliminating all these negative possibilities, we can arrive at a positive one - that Iran is phasing out old systems in order for them to be replaced by modern ones. To an extent, this is already happening. Obviously, the S-300 represents a major step towards modernisation. But the possible appearance of Talash-2 and 3rd Khordad systems also indicate domestic efforts are reaching fruition and may soon proliferate across the IRIADF. 


While Iran's acquirement of the S-300 has certainly increased IRIADF capabilities since 2010, the pace of modernisation, at least in medium range systems, has been unexpectedly slow, with HQ-2 and especially Hawk sites still making up the bulk of this defensive range. It may be possible that previous unveilings of 3rd Khordad and Sayyad-2 missiles were of very recently finished projects or even those still in testing phases, therefore requiring more time to be manufactured and deployed. 

Again, I am leaving a link to Sean O'Connor's excellent analysis of Iran's Air Defences as a reference point for my current work.