Providing the range figures released by Iranian media are accurate, both the ballistic missile and cruise missile would have the ability to hit U.S. bases across the Middle East, as well as Israel and other regional opponents, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Should they enter full-scale service, they would provide a potentially more flexible option than Iran’s longer-range ballistic missiles.
In particular, the Martyr Hajj Qasem ballistic missile has been highlighted for demonstrating the considerable progress made by Iran in this field of weaponry. Fabian Hinz, a Research Associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, provided a photographic comparison of the new missile alongside the original Shahab 3. Hinz described the Shahab 3 as a “horribly inaccurate copy of the North Korean liquid-fuel Nodong, itself basically a scaled-up version of the Soviet Scud,” while the new weapon boasts an indigenous solid-fuel motor and precision guidance.
Solid-fuel rocket propulsion seems to be an area in which Iran is particularly proud of its recent developments. Earlier this year, for instance, the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was keen to highlight the advances it’s made in solid-fuel technology, including its applications for space launch systems. It’s certainly a possibility that the Martyr Hajj Qasem ballistic missile shares some of this new technology.
The appearance of the new MRBM also comes soon after Iran released footage of a test of what was purported to be a newer version of its medium-range Khorramshahr surface-to-surface ballistic missile. Originally unveiled by the IRGC in September 2017, the liquid-fueled Khorramshahr has much in common with the North Korean BM-25 Musudan (also known as the Hwasong-10) design.
According to the IRGC, it has a range of around 1,250 miles and can carry multiple warheads, although the latter feature hasn’t yet been independently verified. The latest video, released by the Fars news agency on August 16, 2020, apparently shows the Khorramshahr being tested with a small re-entry vehicle (RV), which could serve to extend its range and potentially enhance its accuracy. The War Zone covered the Khorramshahr in detail in this previous article.
Prior to the Khorramshahr, Iran also introduced another type of solid-fuel ballistic missile, the Sejjil, apparently with a similar range to the Khorramshahr, and with a two-stage motor.