Boom or Bust? A Closer Look at Iran’s New ‘Mobin’ Cruise Missile

Here’s What You Need to Remember: If Iran’s cruise missiles are more accurate than America’s, then Iran has achieved a breakthrough in either satellite or inertial guidance. Which is not impossible, but does require more evidence.

The newest Iranian weapon, the Mobin, was displayed at the MAKS 2019 defense trade show in Russia in 2019. The cruise missile has a range of 450 kilometers (280 miles), a speed of 900 kilometers (560 miles) per hour, and a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet. It also features a warhead of up to 120 kilograms (265 pounds) and has a “low radar cross-section and high radar-evading capability,” according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

In February of 2019, Iran unveiled the longer-range Hoveizeh cruise missile. “The range of the Hoveizeh missile is over 1,350 kilometers [840 miles] and it is good for targeting ground targets,” said Iran’s Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami.

“The Hoveizeh ground-to-ground cruise missile has been test-fired in a 1,200-kilometer [745 mile] range and it managed to precisely hit the specified target,” Hatami also said.

Hatami “mentioned rapid reaction, low flight altitude, high precision in navigation, and high destruction power as among the main features of the missile,” said Fars News.

Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister, Brigadier General Qassem Taqizadeh, also claimed last week that Iran’s cruise missiles were more accurate than America’s. Taqizadeh said Iranian cruise missiles “enjoyed higher precision-striking power than the U.S-.made ones,” according to Fars News.

“We have produced ballistic and cruise missiles proportionate to the radius of the threats posed to us up to 1,800 kilometers [1,118 miles] in range, and the cruise missiles produced by Iran are more accurate than their U.S. counterparts,” Taqizadeh said.

The U.S. Navy’s Block IV Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile weighs 3,300 pounds, has a speed of 550 miles per hour and a range of 1,000 miles. Guided by GPS or inertial navigation, the Tomahawk can be armed with a nuclear warhead, a 1,000-pound conventional warhead, or multiple submunitions. The missile can receive satellite guidance in mid-flight to choose another target.

Most important, the Tomahawk has been combat-proven. “U.S. and allied militaries have used the highly accurate, GPS-enabled precision weapon more than 2,300 times in combat, and flight-tested it 550 times,” according to manufacturer Raytheon’s Web site. Most recently, U.S. Tomahawks struck targets in Syria in 2017. While not all Tomahawks have hit their targets, the weapon has proven highly useful as a long-range method to project American firepower without risking manned aircraft or ground troops.

This raises some questions about Iran’s cruise missiles. In terms of combat testing, Yemen’s Houthi fighters have fired cruise missiles into Saudi Arabia on at least two occasions, and Iran certainly has devoted considerable resources to missile development, including ballistic, cruise, and anti-aircraft missiles. But if Iran’s cruise missiles are more accurate than America’s, then Iran has achieved a breakthrough in either satellite or inertial guidance. Which is not impossible, but does require more evidence.

As for advanced technology, the Hoveizeh is based on the earlier Soumar cruise missile, which itself is based on an old Soviet design from the early 1970s. “The Soumar appeared to be a copy of the Soviet Kh-55 air-launched cruise missile that had been adapted for ground launch by attaching a solid-fuel booster and using an air-breathing cruise engine that is fixed rather than one that drops down after launch,” according to Jane’s 360.

The Kh-55(NATO code name: “Kent”) is still around: the missile was launched by Russian bombers at rebel targets in Syria in 2017. But there is no reason to assume that the Kent—or the Hoveizeh—is more accurate than American weapons such as the Tomahawk, or new U.S. ground-and air-launched cruised missiles being developed now that the U.S. has left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Iran has a history of unveiling wonder weapons that aren’t so wonderful, such as “advanced” jet fighters that are actually copies of 1970s U.S. aircraft. While Iran can build missiles, their newest models seem more bravado than fact.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared two years ago and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

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Both China and America Played a Role in Building Saudi Arabia’s Missile Forces

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Denied access to U.S. ballistic missiles, Riyadh instead went knocking at the door of Beijing—which had previously proven willing to export arms to Iran when Moscow and Washington refused to do so.

You would be hard pressed to find two more determined foes of Iran other than Saudi Arabia and Israel. The latter country has long been perturbed by bellicose anti-Israeli rhetoric from Tehran, and has unleashed hundreds of air strikes and artillery bombardments targeting Iran’s efforts to arm Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and Syria.

Meanwhile, Riyadh appears to see itself as engaged in nothing short of an epic struggle for dominance of the Middle East, and has oriented its foreign policy around combating the perceived Iranian menace, even in places its influence is moderate at best.

Iran hawks are preoccupied by the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon—a weapon which, given the limitations of Tehran’s air and sea forces, would need to be delivered by a ballistic missile. Iran’s continuing development of such missiles has been proposed as a casus belli, and was cited to justify the U.S. withdrawal from a nuclear deal struck in 2014 (the deal constrained Iran from developing nuclear warheads, but not ballistic missiles to carry them in). It’s often ignored that Israel and Saudi Arabia themselves maintain some of the largest ballistic missile arsenals in the region—the latter of which is the subject of this article.

Iran’s ballistic missile program began during the ‘War of the Cities’ phase of the devastating Iran-Iraq war, when Baghdad rained hundreds of Scud missiles on Iranian metropolises. Though Iran managed to acquire a few Scuds from Libya with which to retaliate against Iraqi cities, it mostly could only strike back with air attacks—which placed its steadily diminishing fleet of U.S.-built warplanes at risk.

Saudi Arabia was also growing nervous of Iraq’s evidently huge missile arsenal. Denied access to U.S. ballistic missiles, Riyadh instead went knocking at the door of Beijing—which had previously proven willing to export arms to Iran when Moscow and Washington refused to do so.

In 1987, China transferred between thirty and 120 Dongfeng (‘East Wind’) DF-3A intermediate range ballistic missiles measuring twenty-four meters long and a dozen Transport-Erector-Launcher trucks. Once gassed full of liquid fuel, the missiles could strike targets as far as 2,700 miles away—though they required special launch pads. Saudi Arabia formed a Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force to operate the weapons, much to Washington’s annoyance.

Just four years later, Riyadh did end up in a war with Baghdad, and forty-six Iraqi missiles did fall upon Saudi territory. Yet Riyadh never bothered flinging missiles back at Baghdad. Why?

The problem with the DF-3 is that it has a Circular Error Probable of at best 300 meters. This means that if you fired a half-dozen at a given target, you could expect on average only three to land within the length of three football fields of the aim point; with the other three most likely falling further afield. Other sources claim the CEP may even be as large as one or two miles.

A weapon that inaccurate is pretty much useless for striking a military target—unless equipped with a nuclear warhead, which is what the DF-3 was designed to do.

But China wasn’t going to sell nukes to the Saudis. The DF-3s were instead modified to carry 3,000 pounds of high explosives. This meant the Saudi DF-3s were only ‘useful’ for dropping high explosives on a target as large as a city and randomly killing whatever unlucky civilians happened to be nearby the point of impact. However, the abundant firepower of U.S. war planes during the Gulf War meant the Saudis felt little need for such tactics.

Over a decade later, Riyadh grew interested in acquiring a more effective strategic missile deterrence, and again turned to China—this time seeking its much more accurate DF-21 IRBM, which has a CEP of only 30-meters. (China even developed a guided DF-21D model designed to hit large ships at sea.) Furthermore, the DF-21’s use of solid-fuel rockets means it can be launched on very short notice.

Though possessing a shorter range of 1,100 miles, the 30-ton missile is perfectly adequate to hit targets throughout the Middle East and would be difficult to intercept as it plunges towards its target at ten times the speed of sound. Reportedly Saudi launch sites were photographed oriented for firing at Iran and Israel, though given the increasingly less discrete alliance between Riyadh and Tel Aviv in recent years, that latter part may be more for show.

In 2014, Newsweek exposed that the CIA had actually helped broker the sale of Chinese missile to Riyadh—as long as it was established that the DF-21s did not have nuclear warheads. Thus, after a series of covert meetings in Washington DC-area diners between spooks and Saudi officials, in 2007 two CIA agents were dispatched to inspect the missiles in their shipping crates before they were transferred into Saudi possession.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly never test-fired its missile arsenal, however, leaving the operational readiness of the RSSMF open to question. Nonetheless, it has maintained four or five underground facilities to house the weapons. Finally, in April 2014, as Riyadh grew fearful of U.S. rapprochement with Iran due to the nuclear deal, it paraded the gigantic missiles publicly.

The thing with a ‘deterrent’ weapon system is that, though they need to appear to be a credible threat, they only serve their primary purpose if they scare a foe into avoiding hostilities. However, that deterrence can’t happen if the adversary isn’t well aware of the extent of that threat due to secrecy, which may explain the Saudi decision to begin prominently trotting the rockets out in full view.

There are also persistent rumors that Riyadh has acquired a small quantity of nuclear weapons from Pakistan, or has arranged to have some transferred in the event of a conflict. Again, the mere existence of the rumors is useful for Saudi deterrence, regardless of the truth of the matter.

That Tehran takes the Saudi threat seriously is supported by a statement by an Iranian general claiming in September 2018 that Iran had earlier tested its Bavar-373 surface-to-air missile system to intercept a ballistic missile. As the primary threat to Iran from the United States comes from air strikes and cruise missiles, the test is likely aimed at Saudi or Israeli missile capabilities. The Bavar-373 appears to be an attempted domestic copy of the Russian S-300PMU-2 long-range SAM.

Ultimately, Washington clearly has fewer objections to the possession of ballistic missiles and possible nuclear capabilities in its nominal allies. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia, past victims of ballistic missile attack, appear to believe that bulking up on such weapons will deter each other from overt hostilities—perhaps even if they only have conventional warheads. However, the tens of thousands of civilians killed during the War of the Cities in the 1980s doesn’t really support that assumption.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in 2018 and is being republished due to reader interest. 

Image: Reuters. 

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Meet Russia’s New Flagship Missile System

Following years of anticipation, Russia’s next-generation S-500 missile defense system is being introduced into service. 

“The state trials have just completed, and the first supplies of this complex have started,” Russian deputy prime minister Yuri Borisov told reporters. “That is not yet the full range as the Almaz-Antey Concern requires. The configurations of the complex were discussed.” Borisov did not elaborate further and his somewhat hazy statement did not become clearer when interpreted in its original Russian. The implication appears to be that certain components are missing from the handful of S-500 units that are currently being delivered to Russia’s Armed Forces. These could be core components without which the system will not function as intended or additional loadout options like different interceptor missile types. Borisov’s statement potentially suggests something of a soft launch for the new missile system, though the details remain unclear as of the time of writing.

The S-500 “Triumfator-M” is Russia’s new flagship missile system, promising across-the-board performance improvements over the country’s current S-400 Triumf. With four radar vehicles per battery, the S-500 reportedly boasts an effective operating range of six hundred kilometers against ballistic missile threats and five hundred kilometers for area defense. The system is believed to be capable of detecting ballistic missiles at a range of up to two thousand kilometers and can track as many as ten ballistic missiles flying at speeds of around seven kilometers per second. Armed with the new, reportedly hypersonic family of 77N6 interceptor missiles, the S-500 is believed to be capable of intercepting hypersonic cruise missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as other aerial objects flying at a speed of over Mach five. It is widely reported that a naval variant of the S-500 will be featured on Russia’s upcoming Project 23560 Lider-class destroyer.

Initially slated for completion in 2012, the S-500 project has faced a long procession of delays over the past decade. The cause of these delays was never made clear, as the system’s development history is being kept tightly under wraps by Moscow. The first ten units entered serial production earlier in 2021, with Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko announcing in December 2020 that the S-500 will be introduced into service by the end of 2021.

Despite being branded as a successor to the S-400, there is no indication that the S-500 will be mass-produced in sufficient numbers to widely replace its predecessor any time soon. The S-500 is meant not to substitute, but to complement, the S-400. Though there is a degree of role overlap between the two systems, the S-500 nevertheless fills a unique niche against advanced threats like hypersonic missiles and drones, as well as next-generation stealth fighters. The S-500 will serve alongside older and less capable systems like the S-400 and S-300 to form an additional layer on top of Russia’s echeloned missile defense network, offering what Moscow believes to be unprecedented capabilities against the latest and most dangerous threats.

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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N.Korea derides South’s submarine-launched missile as clumsy, rudimentary

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SEOUL — A North Korean military think tank on Monday dismissed South Korea’s recently tested submarine-launched ballistic missile as clumsy and rudimentary but warned its development would rekindle cross-border tension.

Both South and North Korea, which have been developing increasingly sophisticated weapons amid stalled efforts to ease tension on the peninsula, tested ballistic missiles on Wednesday.

Jang Chang Ha, chief of the Academy of the National Defence Science, a North Korean state-run weapons development and procurement center, said in a commentary on the official KCNA news agency that media photographs of the latest South Korean missile showed a “sloppy” weapon that did not even have the shape of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

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The missile seemed to be a version of the South’s Hyunmoo surface-to-surface ballistic missiles with the warhead part an imitation of India’s K-15 SLBM, Jang said.

The photographs of the test indicated that South Korea had yet to achieve key technologies for the underwater launch including complicated fluid flow analysis, he said.

“In a word, it should be called some clumsy work,” Jang said. “If it’s indeed an SLBM, it would only be in its rudimentary, infant stage.”

South Korea’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jang said the weapon had not reached a phase where it had strategic and tactical value and would thus pose a threat to the North but questioned the intent of the South’s ongoing missile development.

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“The South’s enthusiastic efforts to improve submarine weapons systems clearly presage intensified military tension on the Korean peninsula,” Jang said. “And at the same time, it awakens us again and makes us sure of what we ought to do.”

Jang’s comments came days after Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, derided the South for criticizing the North for what she said were “routine defensive measures” while developing its own missiles.

North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems, raising the stakes for talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief.

The negotiations, initiated between Kim Jong Un and former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018, have stalled since 2019. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin Editing by Robert Birsel)

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How Worried Should the U.S. Be About China’s ‘Tank Killer’ Missile?

Here’s What You Need to Remember: The HJ-8 is a reliable system, but no longer at the cutting edge of antitank technology.

China has developed a formidable domestic arms industry, but most of the Chinese weapons that have actually been used in combat are copies of older Soviet systems, such as the Type 59 tank (based on the T-54), the J-7 fighter (the MiG-21) and the H-6 bomber (the Tu-16). However, the HJ-8 antitank missile is a rare example of an indigenous Chinese design that has seen action across the globe, and had a notable impact on battlefields in Bosnia in the 1990s and Syria today.

The HJ-73, China’s first domestically produced antitank missile, was basically a copy of the Russian AT-3 Sagger, which gave Israeli tanks a nasty shock in the opening days of the Yom Kippur War. However, Chinese ties with the Soviet Union deteriorated gravely during the 1960s and Beijing decided it wanted a genuinely domestic design for a successor.

Produced by Norinco, the Hongjian (“Red Arrow”) 8 finally entered service in the mid-1980s, and functionally resembled the long-range American TOW antitank guided missile, combined with the discarding launch tube of the French Milan missile system. Unlike short-range rocket-propelled grenades and other light antitank weapons, which basically serve as close defense weapons for regular infantry squads, ATGMs are heavier systems intended to destroy enemy tanks from kilometers away.

Like the TOW, a Red Arrow 8 missile is connected to its launch unit by a wire. The gunner simply needs to keep the electro-optical sight trained on the target while the missile is in flight, and the semiautomatic guidance system helps correct the missile’s flight path. The missile’s solid-fuel rocket motor is not particularly fast, with a maximum speed of 220 meters a second, meaning it could easily take twelve or more seconds to strike targets at its maximum range.

The Red Arrow is considered fairly accurate, and its wire guidance system is intrinsically immune to electronic countermeasures. However, the firer must remain stationary, guiding the missile until it hits the target. The missiles kick up a lot of dust at launch, giving enemy troops a chance to spot and fire at the launch unit, destroying it or suppressing it before it can hit the target.

Early Red Arrow missiles had a range of three kilometers and their 120-millimeter shaped charges had a penetration equivalent to eight hundred millimeters of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA). However, HJ-8 has seen a lot of upgrades over the years. The HJ-8C and D versions introduced a tandem charge designed to defeat the Explosive Reactive Armor common on Soviet and Russian tanks, a feature retained in later models.

The principle contemporary variant is the HJ-8E, which has a thermal imaging system, a range of four kilometers, and reported penetration of one-thousand-millimeter RHA. A new HJ-8L launch unit has miniaturized circuitry to reduce its weight to fifty pounds, so it can serve as a truly man-portable weapon. Finally, there is also a longer-range HJ-8H that can strike targets up to six kilometers distant, including helicopters. Specialized HJ-8F bunker busters with thermobaric warheads and HJ-8S anti-shipping missiles also exist.

The Red Arrow is the most widespread antitank system in the People’s Liberation Army. As an infantry weapon, the four-part system is fired from a heavy tripod. However, it is also mounted on infantry fighting vehicles, wheeled APCs and attack helicopters.

Beijing has extensively exported the missiles to nearly twenty countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan also produce the weapon under license. Pakistan has produced around twenty-three thousand of its own Baktar-Shikan variant, mounted on Land Rovers, APCS and even AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters bought from the United States.

The Red Arrow was first used in action by Bosnian fighters facing Serbian armor in the early 1990s. Reportedly supplied by Pakistan despite a UN arms embargo, the Red Arrows were filmed knocking out numerous T-55 and M-84 tanks (the latter a Yugoslav derivative of the T-72), as well as BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, and were credited with blunting Serbian armored offensives in the Battles of Stup in 1992 and Tesanj in 1993.

Since 2013 there have been dozens of videos of Syrian FSA rebels using HJ-8Es to blow up Syrian Arab Army T-72, T-62 and T-54 tanks, 2S1 and 2S3 self-propelled howitzersmachine gun nestsBMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, and even landed helicopters. These weapons appear to be Sudanese-manufactured, and were possibly supplied by Qatar.

All in all, the videos suggest that somebody supplied a lot of HJ-8s to the rebels in 2013, and that they were fairly effective in combat. However, the sharp drop-off in HJ-8 videos in the last several years may indicate that the weapon shipments were not continued.

Red Arrows have also been recorded in use by Kurdish peshmerga troops in Iraq in 2014, and were reportedly acquired by Wa rebels in Myanmar.

The HJ-8 is a reliable system, but no longer at the cutting edge of antitank technology. It could probably be shot down by the Active Protection Systems on tank such as Israeli Merkava or the Russian T-14. The Red Arrow 8 might also struggle to penetrate the frontal composite armor of top Western main battle tanks like the M1 Abrams. Intriguingly, a video shows PLA troops testing an HJ-8 on one of their own Type 96 tanks, which benefit from modern composite armor. It appears to survive the missile impact reasonably well.

Nonetheless, the HJ-8 has proven quite effective at destroying older tanks and armored fighting vehicles which remain in widespread use across the globe. Meanwhile, the PLA has introduced the harder-hitting laser-guided HJ-9 missile, and the top-attacking HJ-12, the Chinese equivalent to the deadly Javelin missile.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

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Misfire: Biden’s First ‘Over the Horizon’ Missile Strike Kills 10 Civilians

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month killed as many 10 civilians, including seven children, a senior U.S. general said on Friday.

“It was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology,” U.S. General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters.

He added that he now believed that it unlikely that the vehicle hit or those who died were Islamic State militants or posed a direct threat to U.S. forces at Kabul’s airport.

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The Naval Strike Missile Is a ‘Stealthy’ Weapon

The Navy and Marine Corps are continuing to find new uses and potential adaptations for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which arms the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The Marine Corps wants to widen its mission envelope to encompass a greater sphere of attack possibilities such as amphibious attacks, more varied maritime attacks and mobile ground-based anti-ship missile fires.

The NSM, a Raytheon-Kongsberg weapon in development for many years, arms the LCS and provides an over-the-horizon attack option to the ship. This is something that gives commanders the ability to track and destroy incoming anti-ship missiles at safer ranges. Additional uses for the weapon include the engineering of new variants that can fire from land to destroy anti-ship missiles from different vantage points. Additional adaptations to the weapon include wider distribution across the LCS fleet and perhaps various electronic enhancements or software upgrades to improve guidance, reliability or range.

The NSM first emerged in 2012. It consists of a 156-inch missile powered by a launch phase solid-propellant rocket motor booster and a turbo-jet engine fueled by JP-10. This enables it to fly at subsonic speeds for long periods of time. Most weapons are rarely referred to as stealthy; however, the NSM was designed to have a lower radar signature by virtue of being able to attack close to the surface in sea-skimming mode, essentially below the aperture of many ship-based radars. Additionally, the weapon has a range of up to one hundred nautical miles as well as advanced seeker technology, Raytheon developers said.

“It climbs and descends with the terrain and performs evasive maneuvers to counter the world’s most capable defense systems. NSM possesses the capability to identify targets down to ship class—a feature that is vitally important to warfighters who must strike only specific, selected targets in congested, contested and denied environments,” according to Navy Recognition.

In terms of production, Raytheon invested in domestic manufacturing facilities to meet the production demand of the Navy, Marine Corps and other customers. Since the Navy and Marine Corps are buying the same missile and using the same contract vehicle, they could save money through reduced unit prices and logistics commonality. Logistics commonality helps support the Navy and Marine Corps’ multi-domain warfare strategy. For example with proper networking, a land-based NSM could function as a critical defense “node” within a broader meshed system of sensors, meaning that its targeting technology might be in a position to locate launching enemy weapons and pass that information to allies with assets in the region. 

What is more likely, however, is that an island NSM might receive targeting specifics from an aerial drone, submarine or ship-based radar system.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. 

Image: Flickr / Official Navy Page

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Arrow-4: Israel Has a Plan for a Hypersonic Interceptor Missile

Lockheed Martin and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) have teamed up to develop a hypersonic interceptor missile, auguring a new dawn for Israeli air defense capabilities. 

The Israeli Missile Defense Organization announced in February that Israel and the United States are moving forward with a joint project to develop the Arrow-4 missile defense system. That announcement was followed by a July press statement from the IAI, which further explained that Israel has entered a Memorandum of Understanding with Lockheed Martin to collaborate on air and missile defense efforts. This development is accompanied by reports suggesting that Lockheed Martin will not only be involved in joint efforts to develop the Arrow-4, but will also produce the next batch of Arrow-3 missiles. The July statement noted that Lockheed and the IAI would establish an executive steering committee to coordinate and channel their collaboration.

“Our long-standing relationship with the State of Israel and its defense industries opens new opportunities for Lockheed Martin, aimed to expand our businesses around the world while delivering unmatched IAMD capabilities to our global customers,” Lockheed Martin’s senior vice president of global business development, Tim Cahill, said. IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy also hailed the development, describing the MOU as “yet another step in our strategy for cooperation with IAI. “Combining the development capabilities and the vast know-how of Lockheed Martin and IAI experience accumulated over the years in IAMD systems will create win-win opportunities for both sides,” Levy said. 

To fully grasp the significance of the Arrow-4 project, it is important to understand exactly how it figures into Israel’s broader air defense system. The country employs a multi-level missile defense network. First, there is the iconic Iron Dome system for intercepting short-range rocket volleys of the kind fired at Israeli infrastructure during the recent resurgence of the Gaza conflict. Then there is David’s Sling for medium and medium-long range rockets and cruise missiles, as well as certain types of drones and high-flying aircraft. Next is the Arrow-2 system, specifically designed to repel short and medium-range ballistic missiles. The recently-introduced Arrow-3 is meant to take on more sophisticated, specialized targets, perhaps even serving as an anti-satellite weapon. 

But Jerusalem sees even more advanced threats on the horizon, ones that its current missile defense array may not be fully equipped to handle. Israel’s renewed efforts to enhance its air defenses are spurred, at least in part, by the looming concerns of Israeli defense officials that Russian and Chinese hypersonic missile technology—whether in the form of hypersonic cruise missiles or glide-vehicle systems—could eventually be exported to or license-produced in the Middle East. The upcoming Arrow-4 could also provide a more efficient means of countering the growing threat of multiple independent re-entry vehicle missiles. It is unknown precisely what form the technologies necessary to mitigate these new threats will take on the Arrow-4 interceptor missile, which appears to still be in its early design stages.  

Israeli defense officials expect the Arrow-4 missile system to replace the Arrow-2 over the coming decades, with Jacob Galifat, general manager IAI’s MLM Division, said in a statement that the upcoming missile system will be the most advanced of its kind in the world. The effort is the latest in a well-established pattern of heavy Israeli investment into cutting-edge, class-leading missile defense technology, exemplified by the Iron Dome and Arrow series. With the Arrow-4 project, Israel is poised to remain a leading missile defense system producer for decades to come.  

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest. 

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North and South Korea conduct missile tests as arms race heats up

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks to media after reports on North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

September 15, 2021

By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea and South Korea test fired ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the latest volley in an arms race in which both nations have developed increasingly sophisticated weapons while efforts prove fruitless to get talks going on defusing tensions.

South Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system. South Korean President Moon was attending that test firing when word came of the North Korean launches, its first ballistic missile tests since March

North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles that landed in the sea off its east coast, according South Korean and Japanese officials, just days after it tested a cruise missile that analysts said could have nuclear capabilities. Japan’s defence ministry said the missiles landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), contradicting earlier comments that they fell outside its waters.

North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems amid a stand-off over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The negotiations, initiated between former U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, have stalled since 2019.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said North Korea fired two unidentified missiles from its central inland region just after 12:30 p.m. (0330 GMT) that flew 800 km (497 miles) to a maximum altitude of 60 km (37 miles).


The United States condemned North Korea’s launch, saying it violated U.N. Security Council resolutions and posed a threat to Pyongyang’s neighbours, a State Department spokesperson said, without mentioning South Korea’s tests.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations is concerned about the North Korean launches. Diplomats said France and Estonia plan to raise the North Korean launches at a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said the North Korean launches did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory or allies, but highlighted the destabilising impact of its illicit weapons programme.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called them “outrageous” and a threat to peace and security in the region.

The latest launches came as the foreign ministers of South Korea and China held talks in Seoul amid concern over North Korea’s tests and the stalled denuclearisation negotiations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when asked about the cruise missile tests, said all parties should work to promote peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

“Not only North Korea but other countries are carrying out military activity,” he told reporters.

In a meeting with Wang on Wednesday, Moon asked for China’s support to restart dialogue, saying North Korea has not been responding to South Korean and U.S. offers for talks or engagement such as humanitarian aid, Moon’s spokesperson said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China hopes “relevant parties” will exercise restraint.

Moon cited nuclear-armed North Korea’s “asymmetric capabilities” as a reason for South Korea, which is not a nuclear power, to develop better missiles.

South Korea has been pursuing a range of new military systems, including ballistic missiles, submarines and its first aircraft carrier. It has a stated policy of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

“Enhancing our missile capability is exactly what’s needed as deterrence against North Korea’s provocation,” Moon said, while stressing that the SLBM test was pre-planned and not a response to North Korean launches.


The arms race has accelerated under Moon for a number of reasons, including his push for more foreign policy autonomy, wariness of relying on the United States after Trump’s presidency and military developments in both North Korea and China, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London.

“South Korea would face many political and legal obstacles to develop nuclear weapons, both internal and external,” he said. “So it will develop all other capabilities to deter North Korea and show who the strongest Korea is.”

In a statement carried by state media, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, called Moon’s talk of North Korean provocations inappropriate.

Without mentioning the latest launches by North Korea, she called its activities routine defensive measures, while saying that inter-Korean ties could break down if Moon continues to “slander” Pyongyang.

She said it is “illogical” and “foolish” to portray South Korean behaviour as a legitimate action to support peace and North Korea’s actions as a threat.

North Korea’s ballistic missile systems have been banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions. In November 2017, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the entire United States and declared it had become a nuclear power.

Graphic: Graphic on North Korea missile tests:

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo, Emily Chow in Beijing, David Brunnstrom in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; editing by Lincoln Feast, Will Dunham, Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson)

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Has an Arms Race Begun on the Korean Peninsula?

Both Koreas test-fired ballistic missiles within hours of one another, reigniting long-running military tensions on the peninsula.

The DPRK military fired two ballistic missiles into waters off its Eastern Coast on Wednesday, with South Korean defense officials announcing that the missiles were launched from Central North Korea. The ballistic missile launches follow North Korea’s earlier announcement that the country had tested a new long-range cruise missile. DPRK authorities hinted that their cruise missile can carry a nuclear warhead, though its full capabilities remain unclear.

Seoul responded within several hours with a test of its own, launching a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) aboard the new Dosan Ahn Changho-class submarine, ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho, in an event attended by President Moon Jae-in. The 3,800-ton Dosan Ahn Changho was commissioned last month and is expected to embark on its first deployment by August 2022.

The ejection test makes South Korea the first country without nuclear weapons to field SLBMs, which are typically designed for compatibility with nuclear warheads. The SLBM, reportedly named Hyunmoo 4-4, appears to be derived from the country’s new Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile. The Hyunmoo 4-4 reportedly has a range of 500 kilometers, enough to cover all of North Korea.

Although South Korea’s military is already capable of credibly threatening large swathes of DPRK infrastructure and key military assets, the Hyunmoo 4-4 could help Seoul to more effectively target North Korea’s heavily fortified bunkers and underground facilities. “The increase in our missile power can be a sure deterrent against North Korean provocations,” said Moon said in a statement on Wednesday. The new SLBM is part of Seoul’s broader effort to lessen its military dependence on the United States, encompassing a $271 billion, five-year defense procurement plan. The plan likewise envisions a homegrown missile defense network that has been called the “Korean Iron Dome.” The Hyunmoo 4-4  is set to undergo further testing before entering service.  

Analysts have remarked on the tests’ unusual timing, as the DPRK’s flurry of missile activity comes amid a bilateral meeting between Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Moon. It is arguably uncharacteristic for Pyongyang to stage a provocation of this kind even as its prime benefactor, Beijing, is engaged in high-level diplomatic talks.  

Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, calling them a “threat to the peace and security” of the region. “It is in violation of UN Security Council resolution, and I strongly protest and condemn this,” Suga said.  

The DPRK has lashed out at its southern counterpart, threatening the “complete destruction” of bilateral relations over Seoul’s forceful response to the North’s missile tests. “If the president joins in the slander and detraction (against us), this will be followed by counteractions, and the North-South relations will be pushed toward a complete destruction,” said Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and influential player in Pyongyang’s internal politics. “We do not want that,” she added.  

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest. 

Image: Reuters

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