Artillery: The Ballistic Missiles Of Arabia


January 8, 2018: On December 15th the Persian Gulf state of Qatar held a parade that featured two Chinese made SY400 MRL (Multiple Rocket Launcher) each carrying two BP-12A ballistic missiles instead of the normal eight high-speed SY-400 guided rockets. Normally the 8x8 SY-400 truck carries two canisters each with four SY-400 missiles.

This the BP-12A option for the SY-400 was introduced in 2008 and meant to compete with the Russian Iskander M, which was developed in the 1990s and entered service in 2008 The 3.8 ton Iskander E (export model) has a solid fuel rocket motor and a range of 300 kilometers, with a half-ton warhead. The missile can be stored for up to ten years. Russia sells several different types of warheads, including cluster munitions, thermobaric (fuel-air explosive) and electro-magnetic pulse (anti-radar, and destructive to electronics in general.) There is also a nuclear warhead, which is not exported. Guidance is very accurate, using GPS, plus infrared homing for terminal guidance. The warhead will land within 10 meters (31 feet) of the aim point. Iskanders are carried in a 20 ton 8x8 truck, which also provides a launch platform. There is also a reload truck that carries two missiles.

The SY-400 is a smaller (400mm diameter) solid fuel rocket that weighs about two tons, has max range of 280 kilometers and a 300 kg (660 pound) warhead. SY-400 just uses GPS and will land within 50 meters of the aim point. The BP-12A is true ballistic missile, with a range of 300 kilometers, with a half-ton warhead. As a ballistic missile the BP-12A is faster and more difficult to intercept. The SY-400 is a high speed rocket but not as fast as a ballistic missile and has a flatter trajectory.

Qatar is the latest Arabian nation to obtain ballistic missiles. In 1988 Saudi Arabia bought dozens of Chinese DF-3 lidquid fuel ballistic missiles with a range of 4,000 kilometers. These were never test fired by the Saudis and not shown in public until a 2014 parade. Meanwhile the Saudis bought a dozen or so solid-fuel DF-21 ballistic missiles from China. These have a range of 1,700 kilometers. Meanwhile Yemen bought dozens of ballistic missiles from North Korea in the 1990s. Iran and Israel build their own ballistic missiles but Israel has nuclear warheads for theirs. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have reliable anti-missile systems which have been used in combat.