The meaning of Iran’s Fateh-313 cruise missile

Friday 28/08/2015
Iranian President Hassan Rohani, left, listens to Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan after unveiling the surface-to-surface Fateh-313 missile in a ceremony in Iran, on August 22, 2015.

Dubai - Iran has unveiled the latest addition to its weapons in­ventory — the solid-fuelled Fateh-313 cruise missile, which has a 500-kilometre range. The Fateh-313, which was indigenously developed, is said to have passed operational testing and is to be put into production.
Broadcast August 22nd on televi­sion to mark the national Defence Industry Day in Iran, the ceremony was attended by Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who declared, “We will buy, sell and develop any weap­ons we need and we will not ask for permission or abide by any resolu­tion for that.”
The Iranian missile programme, which is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been central to its military strategy since the 1980-8 war with Iraq that followed its revolution in 1979. With sustained investment into developing a growing range of cruise and ballistic missile capabili­ties, Iran has achieved important strategic gains to make it one of the preeminent military powers in the region.
The unveiling of the Fateh-313 is the latest reminder of how the Irani­an missile programme continues to create an increasingly dangerous re­gional environment. Missiles, such as Fateh-313, with solid fuel propel­lants offer advantages over liquid-fuelled rockets, such as reduced lo­gistical footprints and preparation times required for launch.
Although solid-fuelled missiles are more sophisticated than liquid-fuelled ones and, while Iran claims the Fateh-313 has both high accuracy and enhanced capabilities to defeat countermeasures, the Fateh-313 in itself does not represent a ground­breaking development.
The Iranian missile inventory already boasts the C-802 (120-km range), C201-W (200-km range) and Raad (400-km range) cruise mis­siles. Additionally, the Iranian mis­sile inventory includes the Zelzal 1 & 2 (200-km range), Fateh-110-D (250-km range), Shahab-1 (300- km range) and Shahab-2 (500-km range) tactical and short-range bal­listic missiles, the Shahab 3 (1,300- km range), Shahab 3A (1500-km range), Shahab 3B (2,000-km range) medium-range ballistic missiles, and the Sejil (2500-km range) inter­mediate ballistic missile.
With its growing missile invento­ry, Iran is bolstering its capabilities to engage land targets right across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as naval vessels around the Gulf with increasing precision and reliability — leaving GCC and US air and missile defenders as little as three minutes to react with counter­measures from the point of launch.
The cruise and ballistic missile arsenal being amassed by Iran pre­sents a significant offensive threat though it can be reduced to some extent through countermeasures and military responses.
The MIM-104 Patriot systems op­erated by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bah­rain, as well as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) the UAE has recently stood up rep­resent the best-in-class technology to counter missile threats, such as those posited by Iran.
In April, Saudi Arabia purchased the latest version of the PAC-3 Patri­ot interceptors in a deal reportedly worth $2 billion and, in late July, submitted a request for an addition­al 600 Patriots in a deal that could be worth $5 billion. Additionally, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are keen to follow the UAE in acquiring THAAD for protection against ballistic mis­siles.
Cruise missiles are, however, particularly challenging to counter with reliability, especially low-fly­ing variants using terrain-masking technology that make early detec­tion difficult — and Iran is rapidly moving to acquire and develop these capabilities.
Moreover, the threat of saturated missile attacks — a numbers game where Iran is able to launch more missiles than regional air and mis­sile defences can cope with — is intensifying with the sustained in­duction of new missile classes into service under the IRGC, as repre­sented by the Fateh-313.
As such, in the emerging con­text, even the best missile defence systems operated by GCC states can provide only limited protec­tion across the Gulf. Also, the Ira­nian missile programme will re­main more complex and financially draining to counter than it is for Iran to create and sustain. As the Irani­an missile programme continues to receive substantial investment from the Iranian leadership, more sophisticated systems will emerge and complicate the security situa­tion and balance of power with Arab Gulf states.
Emerging developments con­nected with missile proliferation in the region will increasingly em­phasise the upgrading of regional counterforce capabilities, prompt­ing the GCC to focus on boosting air power capabilities with long-range stand-off targeting weapons that can neutralise the capability of Iran to launch missiles in a sustained of­fense. Given the compressed time cycles to react against missile at­tacks, deterrence achieved through enhanced air power capabilities must be buttressed with a yet to be realised regionally integrated air and missile defence shield.
Only a regionally integrated air and missile defence shield and the supporting early warning network that can deliver a near-real time shared picture can assure the op­erational capability and readiness required by Gulf Arab states.
The GCC is at work along these lines to respond to the continuing developments of the Iranian missile programme and the threat it poses to regional security.
It will look to international part­ners, especially the United States, to support its strategy with deeper and intensified cooperation.