Information Warfare: Iran Keeps The Hawk Alive


January 23, 2011: Iran recently announced that it had test fired U.S. made Hawk anti-aircraft missiles. Unlike most weapons announcements from Iran, this one was probably not mostly propaganda. Iran, like many American allies, bought American Hawk anti-aircraft missile systems in the 1970s (the current religious government took over in 1979) Although 1950s technology, the Hawk, with a range of 25-45 kilometers, was reliable and effective against targets lacking a lot of countermeasures. The Iranians had the 1970 version, but further improvements were made in the 80s and 90s. Iran had bought 150 launchers, and nearly a thousand missiles and other gear, sufficient to equip 16 Hawk battalions. While much of the original equipment has died of old age, there have been ample opportunities to keep Iranian Hawks alive. That's because there are still several countries using Hawk. Over 40,000 missiles were manufactured since Hawk entered service in 1960, and the U.S. only stopped using it in 2002. Since the Cold War ended in 1991, a lot of Hawk equipment has been retired. While the U.S. tried to prevent Iran from getting hold of the Cold War surplus stuff, they were not always successful. Moreover, while Hawk was cutting edge fifty years ago, the tech needed to keep Hawk batteries (each with six, three missile, launchers) operational is easier to get, or make locally, today. The big problem for Iran is obtaining the technology that enables Hawk to handle modern electronic-countermeasures. This was a frequent cause for Hawk upgrades over the last 40 years. Iran, in the meantime, has developed ways to keep up.

Iran likes to recycle 1950 military tech. For example, last year it announced that it had developed an armed UAV, with a range of 1,000 kilometers. Pictures of this new weapons showed what appeared to be a copy of 1950s era American cruise missile, or target drone. These, in turn, were based on a similar weapon, the German V-1 "buzz bomb" that was used extensively in World War II to bomb London. The Iranian "Karar" UAV had the benefit of more efficient jet engines, more effective flight control hardware and software, and GPS navigation. Karar is not a wonder weapon, but the Iranians are depending on a clueless international mass media, and their own citizens, to believe it is.

In the last few years Iran has announced many similar weapons, many of them originally conceived in the 1950s. There was, for example, a domestically designed and manufactured, helicopter gunship and another UAV with a range of 2,000 kilometers. Recently, there have also been revelations of heavily armed speed boats, miniature submarines, new artillery rockets and much more. Three years ago they showed off a new Iranian made jet fighter, which appeared to be a make-work project for unemployed engineers. It was a bunch of rearranged parts on an old U.S. made F-5 (which was roughly equivalent to a 1950s era MiG-21). The new fighter, like so many other Iranian weapons projects, was more for PR than for improving military power.

If you go back and look at the many Iranian announcements of newly developed, high tech, weapons, all you find is a photo op for a prototype. Production versions of these weapons rarely show up.  





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close