An Iranian Fajr-5 rocket launch, February 6, 2017.
“Fajr-5 missiles…are now equipped with a new warhead with greater destructive power.”
Iran has long been an indigenously equipped military power,[i] and the Iranian press seemingly announces new weapons every few weeks. However, these announcements are often exaggerations As not every prototype makes it into the arsenals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or the regular army. Those that do are apparent on the battlefield and across the broader region: Mohajer[GRLCUT(1] and Ababil [GRLCUT(2] drones,[ii] Moudge-class destroyers, and Fateh-110 [RG3] and Fajr-5 missiles, for example. The Fajr-5 missile is an IRGC staple, which[iii] Tehran has acknowledged giving to U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist groups. In 2012, a Fajr-5 fired by Hamas hit on an apartment building just outside Tel Aviv. It is against this backdrop that reports like the accompanying article from IRGC news affiliate Tasnim News Agency, about a new, upgraded warhead for the Fajr-5 are notable. While Iranian press discussion focuses on the thermobaric warhead’s potential for Iran’s own counterterror fight, presumably against Kurdish and Baluchi separatists (respectively located in the country’s rugged northwest and southeast border regions), regional states and actors should assume that the IRGC will not limit a new thermobaric warhead solely to use in its domestic arsenal. Discussion of warhead stability also implies safer shipping and handling by groups less well-trained than the Iranian military. Should reports about the thermobaric warhead be accurate, a greater blast radius like that produced by the new thermobaric warhead, especially when fired against urban targets, will increase damage and lower the threshold for retaliation.
“Roketha-ye Fajr-5 Sepah Termobaric Shod (Revolutionary Guards’ Fajr-5 Rockets are now Thermobaric),” Tasnim News Agency (news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 8 May 2023. https://www.tasnimnews.com/fa/news/1402/02/17/2887806
…The test of the new type of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s Fajr-5 rocket equipped with thermobaric warhead has been successfully completed. The IRGC’s 333-mm Fajr-5 missiles, which had previously been delivered to the force as the Fajr-5C rocket, are now equipped with a new warhead with greater destructive power. This new warhead, produced by specialists of the IRGC’s Ground Force’s Self-Sufficiency Research and Jihad, has an explosive power of 1.5 times that of TNT, resulting in a greater radius of destruction and thermal effects. In addition, its lower sensitivity compared with TNT makes it safer to use than conventional warheads.
…When this type of ammunition explodes in the indoor space of underground bunkers or trenches, its destructive pressure stays in the shelter’s enclosed space for longer and causes more destruction, and thus is an efficient weapon for clearing fortifications and trenches….This new type of combat head for these rockets, due to their specific type of performance, is also a suitable weapon to deal with terrorist groups, especially in mountainous and difficult areas because these groups create shelters and strongholds in these areas using natural effects or engineering measures.
[i] While many of Iran’s neighbors purchase off-the-shelf platforms and weaponry from the global arms market, the isolation Iran suffered during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War changed Iran’s strategic doctrine to favor production rather than acquisition of armaments. For more information, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: Domestic Weapons Production Up 69 Percent,” OE Watch, March 2017. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/195239/download
[ii] For previous reporting on Fajr-5 development, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: IRGC Debuts New Explosive Plant,” OE Watch, July 2016. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/195435
[iii] For background, see: Michael Rubin, “A Short History of the Iranian Drone Program,” American Enterprise Institute, 26 August 2020. https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/a-short-history-of-the-iranian-drone-program/
Image: An Iranian Fajr-5 rocket launch, February 6, 2017
Attribution: Tasnim News Agency