Launch of a Karrar drone modified to carry the Majid heat-seeking missile on 21 October 2023.
“The Karrar UAV is equipped with a heat-seeking missile.”
Iran’s growing drone fleet is a pillar of its weapons arsenal and military strategy. In recent years, the Iranian military as a whole has expanded both the number of drone models and capabilities at its disposal.[i] In the excerpted article from the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi-Fard, commander of the regular Iranian Army’s Air Force, announced the successful upgrade of the Karrar platform[ii] to carry short-range heat-seeking missiles that he claimed had been used successfully to shoot down other UAVs in tests.[iii] General Sabahi-Fard noted that the modified Majid surface-to-air missile is now used on its Karrar [RG1] drone platform. While the Majid missile’s five-mile range is not impressive, the Karrar/Majid combination gives Iran a relatively inexpensive counter-drone capability as Iran looks for less expensive alternatives to surface-to-air missiles to engage enemy drones. Finally, General Sabahi-Fard highlighted Iran’s increasing role as a drone-exporting power, implying that Iran will continue to encourage the proliferation of its drones for both economic profit and to tilt the battlespace and operational environment to its advantage.
“Tajiz-e Karrar beh Mushak-e Majid ba Bared 8 Kilometr baraye ahdaf-e havaye” (Equipping Karrar [drone] with Majid [missile] with an 8 kilometer range for aerial targets),” Tasnim News Agency (news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 22 October 2023. https://www.tasnimnews.com/fa/news/1402/07/30/2976015
[Brigadier General Alireza] Sabahi-Fard continued, “The Rasul [Prophet] UAV project has followed nine stages of field and operational tests and extensive and sensitive flights, which is one of the most important points in conducting various flight tests, deep and effective cooperation of all sectors.
The commander of the Army Air Defense Force added, “In this plan, using UAVs upgraded to carry indigenous air-to-air missiles with the ability to track and engage against any hostile aerial targets in the operational range has been achieved….Sabahi-Fard said that in this project, the Karrar UAV is equipped with a heat-seeking missile with a range of eight kilometers, adding, “After over a year and a half of extensive research and field tests to determine which missiles to install on the Karrar UAV, we finally the Majid’ surface-to-air missile after we made technical changes in in order to enable it to fire from the air.”
[i] For background on Iranian drone developments and strategies, see: Michael Rubin, “A Short History of the Iranian Drone Program,” American Enterprise Institute, August 2020. https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/A-short-history-of-the-Iranian-drone-program.pdf?x91208
[ii] In 2009 the Iranian Defense Ministry unveiled the Karrar (Striker) prototype. Within a year, it was mass-producing the model that it claimed to have a 600-mile range. Press accounts at the time said that Iranian forces could configure the Karrar to either launch two C-705 cruise missiles or carry 500-pound guided bombs. Shortly after, Hezbollah used a Karrar as a kamikaze drone. For previous discussion of the Karrar UAV, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran’s Combat Drones Fitted with Missiles” OE Watch, September 2012. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/195613/download
[iii] For previous mention of Alireza Sabahi-Fard, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Unveils New Bahman Radar System,” OE Watch, April 2021. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/374628/download
Image: Launch of a Karrar drone modified to carry the Majid heat-seeking missile on 21 October 2023.