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Iran’s supersonic cruise missile could be a huge technological leap: Analyst

By Alireza Hashemi

Iranian military scientists have made a giant technological leap by obtaining the know-how to build a ramjet missile engine, says a prominent defense analyst.

Speaking to the Press TV website on Wednesday, Mahdi Bakhtiari, a Tehran-based journalist and defense analyst, said Iran has long been working on cruise missile development and it now has an array of such weapons in its rapidly growing arsenal.

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency on Wednesday reported that Iran has obtained the technological know-how to build supersonic cruise missiles, noting that the new-generation missile is currently in the test stage.

“Cruise missiles have always been a big part of Iran’s missile development program," Bakhtiari remarked in conversation with the Press TV website.

"The country began working on cruise missiles during the war with Iraq in the 1980s. At that time, Iranian forces built missiles with a range of 20 to 30 kilometers."

The military affairs commentator said Iran's cruise missiles were gradually developed over the years, referring to the unveiling of Soumar and Hoveyzeh cruise missiles in recent years, whose specifications have not been publicized.

And, most recently, Abu Mahdi high-precision naval cruise missile with a range of 1,000 kilometers that entered mass production.

A homegrown 'Abu Mahdi' naval cruise missile is put on display during a ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on July 25, 2023.

"Notably, the commander of IRGC’s Navy Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri recently announced that their vessels are equipped with the Qadr-474 missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers," Bakhtiari noted.

He hastened to add that although the range of Iranian missiles has always progressed, the country until now didn't have a cruise missile capable of flying at speeds over Mach 1, which equals the speed of sound, or 343 meters per second. 

The analyst noted that the technology needed to build a supersonic missile is highly advanced and this new missile would be something "really new on the table."

“A supersonic missile can travel at a speed of Mach 5. Iranian cruise missiles are equipped with a rocket engine for takeoff and a second homegrown turbojet to reach their destination," Bakhtiari stated.

"If this missile uses a ramjet missile for the second stage, it would constitute a huge technological leap. A ramjet engine is much more advanced when compared to a turbojet."

A ramjet is a form of air-breathing engine that uses the forward motion of the engine to take in air for combustion that produces jet thrust.

They work most efficiently at supersonic speeds around Mach 3 and can operate up to speeds of Mach 6.

Iranian homegrown Fattah hypersonic missile is unveiled in Tehran, on June 6, 2023. (Photo by Fars news agency)

Bakhtiari said a ramjet cruise missile could be highly lethal, as it can easily circumvent hostile air defense systems located far away, especially when fired by a warplane.

“Three factors make a missile good or bad. Range, accuracy, and speed. When combined with a great range and great maneuvering ability, this super-fast missile would be an absolute killer,” he asserted.

Iran in June unveiled the first hypersonic ballistic missile called Fattah with a range of 1,400 kilometers that can fly at a speed of up to Mach 15 and is capable of breaking through any defense system.

Iran also unveiled another hypersonic missile called Khaybar, with a range of 2,000 kilometers.

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