The cap on the nose of the blue missile makes it impossible to confirm that it is the Khalij Fars anti-ship variant of the Fateh-110 seen behind. (Iranian MoD)
The Iranian Ministry of Defence (MoD) held a ceremony on 5 March to mark the delivery of Ghadr, Qiam, Fateh-110 and Khalij Fars ballistic missiles to operational units.
The Iranian MoD released photographs showing 15 Ghadrs and 44 Qiams lined up in rows. The Ghadr is the latest variant of the Shahab-3 liquid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The smaller and finless Qiam is generally believed to be a development of the Shahab-2. When it was unveiled in 2010 Iranian officials said it was harder to detect by radar, had a more accurate guidance system and a shorter preparation time.
The Fateh-110 is a 300 km-range tactical ballistic missile and the Khalij Fars is the anti-ship variant developed from it. Iran has previously announced that the Khalij Fars was successfully tested in February 2011 and July 2013, when video footage was released purportedly taken from the missile's electro-optical/infrared seeker as it homed in on its target.
While this raised the possibility that Iran had developed a weapon that naval vessels would struggle to defend themselves against, there were doubts whether the tests were as successful as claimed.
The Iranian media has previously reported that the missiles are being produced and delivered to operational units, but the photographs and video footage of the 5 March ceremony provided the first evidence that this might actually be the case.
Seven motors, guidance units and warheads were lined up on either side of a hall for the event. The ones on the left were painted green, suggesting they were Fateh-110s, while the ones on the right were painted pale blue like other types of Iranian anti-ship missiles, suggesting they were Khalij Fars.
The only obvious external difference between the Fateh-110 and the Khalij Fars is the transparent dome on the nose of the latter for its seeker. However, the blue missiles displayed at the ceremony had a black cap over their noses making it impossible to confirm they had electro-optical guidance systems.
This story, first published 7 March 2014, has been subject to a correction.
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