Missiles that Russia may receive: What Iranian-made Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar are capable of?
In 2022, Russia tried to get Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from Iran due to depleting stocks of 9M723 and 9M728 rockets
Political and military observer Oleksandr Kovalenko writes about the missiles.
However, the effectiveness of compensation by 5B55 missiles was dubious. Originally designed as an air defense missile, it lacked the accuracy required to replace operational-tactical weapons and had a limited launch range of up to 75 kilometers. The S-300 systems are mostly used by Russian forces in Ukraine as indiscriminate terror, striking at frontline towns and villages, but the necessity for a high-precision operational-tactical missile weapon has never been met.
Reports that Russia had struck some deals with Iran about the supply of Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar grew more common in the second half of 2023. These discussions became increasingly regular, particularly in light of the expiration of Iran's missile export prohibitions.
How are the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar missiles special?
The Fateh-110 missile was developed from the Zelzal-2 unguided missile, which was based on the Zelzal-1, one of Iran's first and most successful missiles during the initial stages of its missile program.
"Why was Zelzal-1 the most successful in years of trial and error? It is very simple: Iran gained access to Chinese missile technology through the supply of CSS-8 missiles. In turn, the Chinese CSS-8 (Project 8610) was a copy of the Soviet S-75 missile, with modifications to make it a tactical surface-to-surface ballistic missile," the journalist writes.
The entire future missile program of Iran, which is pushed back from the base in the form of Zelzal-1, is not particularly far off, even in terms of characteristics: range - up to 200 km (200-300 km in Fateh-110, depending on generation), and warhead mass - about 500 kg (500-650 kg in Fateh-110, depending on generation).
The Zolfaghar missile is a continuation of the Fateh-110, however, it outperforms the previous generation missile by a significant margin. The Zolfaghar has a range of up to 700 kilometers, and its accuracy has improved greatly due to the adoption of a variety of guidance systems. The missile employs GPS and commercial GNSS systems in addition to the inertial guiding system.
The key distinction between the Zolfaghar missile and previous generations is that the warhead of this missile is detached as it approaches the target. This makes detection, tracking, and destruction much more difficult.
"Ukrainian air defense systems have developed algorithms for countering both types of missiles, with the difference that the Iskander-M/Zolfaghar ballistic missile defense systems can only shoot down Patriot and SAMP/T SAMs. Therefore, it is not excluded that after receiving Iranian missiles Russia will use Fateh-110 in short-range areas with the lowest concentration of air defense systems, and Zolfaghar - over a much larger area of rear Ukraine, where there are no air defense systems capable of intercepting these missiles. Although they may try to break through Kyiv's echeloned air defense for the sake of experimentation," Kovalenko noted.
On the other hand, the problem with Russia's use of these missiles is that they are not mass-produced, their quantity is limited and their production is not comparable to, for example, the production of 'kamikaze' drones with which Russian troops are flooding Ukraine by the hundreds every month.
Furthermore, these missiles are fired from particular launchers, which must be provided to Russia alongside the missiles, and their personnel must undergo additional training. And, in the context of fighting these missiles, it may be more profitable and successful to destroy the launchers, without which the missiles cannot be used.