Home iran How Israeli Missiles Broke Iran’s Air Defense Lines

How Israeli Missiles Broke Iran’s Air Defense Lines

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Around 4 am on April 19, Isfahan province was jolted by three powerful explosions. Israel’s missiles had reached far into Iranian territory, a mere six days after Tehran’s own drone and missile attack on Israel.

Despite the clear evidence of the strike, the Islamic Republic persisted in its state of denial.

What Does Israel’s Strike Reveal About Iran’s Air Defence System?

According to US sources, three missiles were launched towards Isfahan’s Eighth Shekari Air Base from outside Iran’s airspace, breaching its air defense shield. The strike, as shown by satellite imagery, caused damage to the engagement radar, a crucial component of Iran’s S-300 air defense systems. The S-300 is a family of Russian-made surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems.

Just a day or two before the attack, media affiliated with the Islamic Republic boasted about Iran’s air defense system’s capability and readiness to confront Israeli fighter jets and precision missiles by publishing images of Iranian made air defense systems. In recent years, Iran has undergone a notable evolution in its air defense capabilities. As of the end of 2023, Iran boasts the development of 21 indigenous mobile air defense systems. These systems offer comprehensive coverage, spanning from low to high-altitude surveillance air defense systems.

Among these layers stands the Bavar-373 (Belief) long-range air defense system, claimed to surpass both the Russian S-300 and U.S. Patriot systems. The Islamic Republic boldly asserts that the Bavar-373 possesses the capability to detect and engage high-altitude and stealth aircraft, helicopters, drones, as well as anti-radiation, ballistic, and cruise missiles. Similar to the S-300, the Bavar-373 includes a command vehicle, search radar, engagement radar, and up to six launchers.

(Source: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

In 2016, Iran acquired four S-300 battalions from Russia, predating the introduction of the Bavar 373 in 2019. Allegedly, half of one of S-300 battalions is annually redeployed to Mashhad to safeguard Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Yet, with the presence of the S-300 in Isfahan’s airbase, targeted by Israeli missile strikes, and the periodic relocation of part of the S-300 battalion to Mashhad during Khamenei’s annual visits to the city, one might question Iran’s professed confidence in its indigenous air defense.

Underestimation: A Risky Gambit

The precision strike executed by Israeli fighter jets, coupled with the dismantling of the radar engagement system in Iran’s S-300 air defense network, starkly exposes the vulnerabilities within Iran’s aerial shield. US military sources suggest that the strike was intended to demonstrate Israel’s ability to penetrate Iran’s defensive systems unnoticed. However, one should not underestimate Iran’s determined efforts to bolster and expand its air defense capabilities.

On June 20, 2019, Iranian forces downed a US military surveillance drone flying over the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The Khordad 3 anti-aircraft system was hailed as the hunter.

(Source: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Some military analysts argue that Israeli long-range missiles were fired from Iraq’s airspace onto an airbase in Isfahan. Iran’s bold move of arming so called ‘Axis of Resistance’ group has already set the stage for chaos. If the Islamic Republic succeeds in deploying air defense systems to its regional proxies, establishing a defensive stronghold in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and even Yemen, it would create an air defense axis, presenting a significant challenge to the aerial supremacy of Israeli forces and their allies, which were one of the key factors in Israel’s success in intercepting 99% of Iran’s projectiles on April 12. This journey is well underway, as evidenced by the shootdown of an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen on November 8,2023 . Farzin Nadimi, a Senior Fellow with The Washington Institute, attribute the likely use of Iranian-made “Item 358” air defense cruise missiles in the attack.

Expanding its arsenal beyond the existing 21 mobile air defense systems, the Islamic Republic introduced two additional defense systems: The Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system. Unveiled by the Ministry of Defence on February 19, these additions underscore Iran’s ongoing efforts to enhance its aerial defense capabilities.

Disregarding the satellite images that prove the accuracy of Israeli military tech, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, brushes off the low success rate of the Islamic Republic’s missile launches as “secondary issue”.

What was scarcely mentioned in his meeting with high-ranking military commanders on Sunday was his emphasis on innovation in armaments. He remarked: “We mustn’t pause for a moment, as stagnation implies regression. Therefore, innovation in armaments and tactics, along with a thorough understanding of the enemy’s strategies, should always remain a priority.”

The directive from the Leader of the Islamic Republic is crystal clear: the enhancement of Iran’s air defense system extends beyond national borders to include its proxy forces.