Iran's SAM Coverage - Updates and Future

This is an updated overview of Iran's air defences. I made a blog post on the subject a year ago, promising it to be a "2 part post" of current and future air defences. The much delayed second part is included in this blog post.

As before, I will be using Sean O'Connor's 2010 IMINT & Analysis blog post as a basis for my own work, to find SAM sites. This blog post contains no SAM site locations that aren't already in the public sphere.

Iran's full Air Defence Coverage as of the date of this post

Breakdown of Systems

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

S-300PMU2: All 4 purchased batteries deployed, red. 200 km range.

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

MIM-23 Hawk: 19 sites, light blue/turquoise. 45 km range.

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

Tor-1ME: 2 sites, light green. 12 km range.

Sayyad-2/Talash: 3 sites, dark blue. 70 km range.

Raad: 2 sites, orange. 70 km.

Iran continues to maintain a point defence air defence posture, with broadly similar locations for SAM sites. Strategic locations are covered by a mixture of medium and long range air defences, sometimes accompanied by short range air defences. This appears to be a wise choice, as a concentrated air campaign could create a gap in a purely area defence strategy, with free reign to pursue targets deep in the country. Iran's troubled neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan, pose an opportunity for an adversary to use their airspace to flank an area defence strategy.

Tehran is by far the heaviest protected area in Iran, with 2 S-300 sites and 1 S-200 providing strong long range air defence. It also has 3 modern medium range systems developed in Iran, and a plethora of legacy medium range systems.

SAM coverage of Esfahan and Natanz

Changes in Sites

That makes a total of 41 batteries, 6 up from August 2017, and just 1 down from January 2010. Meanwhlie, the quality of deployed systems since these dates has greatly improved.

Legacy Systems

3 additional Hawk batteries have been deployed at Dezful, Chabahar, and Esfahan. All other Hawks have remained where they are. 2 HQ-2 batteries from Tehran and Esfahan have been moved to cover Natanz. Of the 4 2K12 Kub systems (2 of which I incorrectly said last year were Talash and 3rd Khordad systems), 2 are no longer active. They have probably been returned to storage or garrisons. 1 of the 3 Tor-M1E batteries is no longer active.

Distribution of Hawk sites across Iran

Modern Systems

Distribution of modern domestic systems across Iran

An active Sayyad-2 battery in Iran

The last S-300 system Iran purchased has been deployed to Esfahan. 2 active HQ-2 sites in Tehran and Bandar Abbas have been augmented with Raad TELARs, with both systems active at the same site. It seems these Raad TELARs are very mobile and active as they are seen in different HQ-2 sites, and the coverage of their presence at some sites is sometimes spotty on Google Earth. 

I have used the same rings for Sayyad-2 and Talash systems due to their similarity. 1 Talash battery is present at an active S-200 site just south of Tehran. It is denoted by the slightly further south dark blue circle at Tehran. The northern dark blue circle and the other at Esfahan mark the locations of "Sayyad-2 System" batteries at former HQ-2 sites. The Sayyad-2 and Talash systems are similar in that they use the same missiles and TELs, but distinct in that they use different radars, and Sayyad-2 is an independent system while Talash protects S-200 batteries. 

Since I'm doing a post on Iran's Air Defences, I thought I would make a special mention of the Nazir radar which was recently unveiled. An 800 km OTH radar, it covers all of North East and Central Iran. Its placement at an elevation of over 2900 metres reflects an attempt at alleviating one of the biggest challenges to Iran's air defences, which is Iran's mountainous terrain.

The 800 km range of the Nazir radar reaches deep into Afghanistan and Turkmenistan

Implications and Effects

The addition of the last S-300 battery in Esfahan solidifies the position of Iran's second city, and helps cover the Natanz nuclear facility.

But by far the most important improvement in Iran's air defences is the addition of 5 modern, Iranian SAM systems. The deployment of a Talash battery at the Tehran S-200 site is a sign of more deployments of this advanced system at more S-200 sites. I judge that this system is probably using 70 km Sayyad-2 missiles, as Sayyad-3 has only just been put into production. Meanwhile, the 2 standalone Sayyad-2 batteries and 2 Raad systems have all been deployed at HQ-2 sites, operated by the IRGC. As usual, the IRGC gets its share of MOD systems faster than the Artesh. But I guess the Artesh has 4 new S-300 batteries, so the IRGC wanted its turn. Nevertheless, this indicates I was correct in saying in my blog post last year that Iran is finally phasing out old systems in favour of modern ones. I expect more old systems to be replaced in the coming months and years.


Iran still lacks air defences around critical economic and war infrastructure. One example is the Khuzestan region with associated oil terminals and refineries. Saudi F-15s could easily fly over  Kuwaiti territorial waters out of the range of even the S-200, and launch JSOW glide bombs with an up to 130 km range at facilities in Ahvaz and Abadan. Only a single Hawk battery is present to defend against such small, stealthy glide bombs.

The Hawk battery in the very top left is effectively the only system protecting Ahvaz (being so close to the edge of S-200 range), with nothing at all protecting the Abadan refinery.

But the most glaring weakness of Iran's air defences is certainly those protecting Shiraz; there are none. Not only is Shiraz one of Iran's most historic and famous cities, it is also the home of Iran's hi-tech radar production capacity. A successful strike against SAIRAN's factory in Shiraz would cripple Iran's ability to maintain and make new radars for the war. Again using Saudi Arabia as an example, enemy F-15s could just fly around Iran's long range air defences (between the gaps of Bandar Abbas and Bandar Bushehr) and drop JSOW's from 53 km outside S-200 range, and 19 km outside S-300 range. At well over 200 km away from the batteries, the dropped JSOWs wouldn't even be detected owing to their stealthy design.

To make matters worse, the 53 km distance is short enough for even the GBU-39 SDB, another, much smaller glide bomb which Saudi Arabia is said to be purchasing. A single F-15SA can carry 16 of these bombs, with ample pylon space for a realistic loadout of air to air missiles and external fuel tanks. Iran's aged air force would have little chance to fight back.

Flight path of hypothetical Saudi strike aircraft (black) and subsequent flight path of standoff glide bombs (green).

Possible Future Outlook

Before getting into the actual SAM network, I think it goes without saying that Iran needs more than just SAMs to improve its air defences. Fighter aircraft can aid SAMs by filling gaps and weak spots, and can also destroy enemies with standoff weapons from getting close enough to fire on/through air defences. This is especially important in the case of long range air-launched cruise missiles like the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER (purchased by Saudi Arabia) with ranges exceeding even that of the S-200. Also essential is a very large number of SHORAD like the Pantsir or Tor systems to protect virtually every strategically important site and long range air defence system, which will be high value targets for enemy PGMs and standoff weapons. Furthermore, AWACS aircraft would suit Iran's mountainous terrain very nicely, as they have an unobstructed line of sight and look-down capability. Iran has so far tried to alleviate the lack of this capability with OTH radars which also have a look-down capability, but still lack the precision of AWACS, and - being static - are vulnerable to attack by very long range cruise missiles like the Tomahawk.

But with Iran finally announcing the range and altitude of Bavar-373 at 200 km and 27 km (~88,000 ft), we can begin to speculate what the future might look like for Iran's air defences if they are completely modernised. Of course, I do not claim to know everything about Iran's strategic calculus or valuation of strategic assets. But I can have make an educated guess based on current posture and some obvious areas of improvement.

Overall future coverage


S-300 in red, 200 km range. 

S-200 in purple, 240 km range.

Bavar-373 in blue, 200 km range.

Talash/Sayyad system (with Sayyad-3 missiles) in green, 120 km range.

Raad in yellow, 70 km range (operated by IRGC).


One clear and obvious difference is the sheer increase in quantity of systems deployed. This is because I have filled even inactive (but still usable) sites with SAMs, and even some extra areas, notably Chabahar and Khuzestan. The aim is to create a layered air defence structure. Still, Iran would probably only use such an extensive number of systems in wartime. Peacetime posture would likely be more modest for financial reasons.

All legacy medium range systems would be replaced by modern equivalents. The S-200 would stay purely for anti-ISR/AWACS. S-300s, being modern systems in their own right, would also stay. But the Bavar-373 should be deployed extensively to important areas which lack long range coverage, like Khuzestan, Shiraz, Bandar Abbas, Dezful and Chabahar. Hamedan possesses a long range S-200 battery, but needs a system like the Bavar-373 to defend against tactical aircraft. If you're wondering, the heavy defence of Chabahar is because of its future status as Iran's only deep water port, but is explained militarily in another of my blog posts about naval strategy Iran could employ outside the Persian Gulf.

Long range SAM deployment 

Medium range SAM deployment

Shiraz and Khuzestan gain long range SAMs to protect their strategic areas. Deployment of Sayyad-3 missiles to Abu Musa could increase Iran's A2AD capabilities in the Strait of Hormuz

I reiterate that I don't know what's going on inside the heads of Iran's military planners. The quantity and quality of Iran's future SAM coverage could vary significantly. For example, Iran may choose to saturate specific areas with more long range systems, possibly adding Bavar-373s to Tehran. Or, Iran may choose to deploy the Sayyad-3 missile in a much more limited sense, with most Talash/Sayyad batteries using the Sayyad-2 missile with a higher Pk. Or Tehran could just set up new sites in previously uncovered areas of the country, like the East. Regardless, there is evidence of progress.


Esfahan S-300 location in public sphere (though I'd found it on my own before *shakes fist*)

 :) البته بیشتر هم در این موضوع هست، اما اسلام دست و پامو بسته