Analysis: Fakour Air-to-Air Missile

Today Iran announced that it had begun mass production of the Fakour Air-to-Air missile, with associated images and video. I have managed to glean some interesting details of this missile through the images provided. But I also have some criticisms, which I will explain later.


Fakour can trace its lineage back to the Sedjil program of the late 1980s. Near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Iran was running very low on AIM-54 Phoenix missiles and the parts required to keep the missiles working. Not wanting to give up the F-14's advantage in BVR, Iran started the Sedjil project in 1986, which was an effort to repurpose original MIM-23 Hawk missiles to be used as Air-to-Air missiles. They were much less capable than the AIM-54, but still had greater reach than any other missile in the war (save for the AIM-54 itself). The program was a limited success, with the resulting missile scoring one kill against an Iraqi MiG-29 in 1988.


Various markings and features on the missile indicate that it is more than just an improved AIM-54 copy. In fact, it is something else entirely.

The first indication I saw that this may not be a simple copy is a marking that says "M112 ROCKET MOTOR".

The M112 Rocket Motor is the same one used in the MIM-23 Hawk missile, which Iran has in abundance, and manufactures as the Shahin/Salamche missile.

On another revealing stencil (below), I can just about make out "AIM-23B". AIM-23, aka Sedjil is the IRIAF designation for the air launched MIM-23 Hawk that Iran attempted to make as a substitute for low AIM-54 Phoenix stocks during the Iran-Iraq war. The IRIAF does like to still use western-style designations for its weapons and systems. Even the operating temperatures marked on the missile are in Farenheit, which is almost exclusively used in the US.

Credit to @masimhsn from twitter for spotting this

The final and most physically obvious piece of evidence is the long cable duct/fuse on the side of the missile, which is not present on the AIM-54 but is a prominent feature on the MIM-23.


Pheonix, conspicuously missing the cable duct

The diameters of the AIM-54 and MIM-23 are very similar - 380 mm and 370 mm respectively. It seems that Iran decided to advance the Sedjil into some sort of AIM-54 lite, even giving it control surfaces that are very similar (though slightly different) to the AIM-54's. Possibly, the IRIAF's limited budget did not allow it to copy the AIM-54, so it opted for a Hawk based design, which Iran already manufactures. It remains a mystery if the Fakour also uses the SARH guidance of a Shahin/Salamche missile on which it is based. This would be a serious downgrade from the AIM-54's ARH guidance.

EDIT: IHS Janes is quoting Iranian media as saying that the missile can be guided "independently of the launch aircraft's radar".


The first issue with the Fakour is that it is actually worse than the AIM-54 in range performance. It has a range of 160 km compared to the AIM-54's 190 km. Iran sort of justifies this by saying Fakour is a "medium range" missile. If that is true, then where's the long range missile? The massive, ~500 kg Fakour isn't even a particularly great medium range missile. Not when there are the much smaller and lighter AMRAAM and Meteor around that can be carried in larger numbers, on smaller aircraft. Moreover, why even bother equipping the 40 or so F-14s with medium range missiles (though there  have only been 2 F-14AMs seen), when their low sortie rate as old, maintenance-intensive aircraft will not allow them to be front-line fighters? The most effective task Iran's F-14s can realistically fill is that of interceptors. And 160 km won't cut it. 

NB: There is supposedly a "long range" missile called Maghsoud under development. This would be the true successor (maybe in the form of a closer copy) of the AIM-54, rather than the "medium range" Fakour.