New Threat Posed by Iranian Hypersonic Missiles Forces Israel to Upgrade its Missile Defence Systems



Tel Aviv: Israel will have to upgrade its multi-tiered missile defence systems to cope with new threat posed by the Iranian Hypersonic missiles. The FATTAH Hypersonic ballistic missile was presented by the IRGC of Iran on June 6, 2023. The missile has some distinct qualities and according to Israel senior experts it is a hypersonic missile.

According to Tal Inbar, an Israeli senior analyst, the missile diameter is about 1 meter. The missile according to Inbar is about 15.3 m long. The expert added that the missile has a take-off weight of approx. 12 tons, including nearly  9-ton of propellants. The Israeli expert said that the re-entry vehicle (RV) weighs 1 ton and the warhead 350 to 450 kg. The missile uses a guidance and navigation systems based on INU and GNSS (GPS & GLONASS). The assessed CEP accuracy – 10 to 25 m warhead – HEF.

The missile’s first stage is based on (or identical to) the Khaibar Shekan missile. The re-entry Vehicle (RV) has a sturdy rocket motor similar to the kick motor used in satellite launchers, the Arash-24. An electrically steerable nozzle is part of this motor. For controlling the missile throughout the boost and re-entry phases of flight, the RV includes four steering fins. First phase -Burnout, rocket motor boost, and separation of the RV from the first stage. Second stage: Ballistic flight (depressed), followed by the ignition of the RV’s sustainer while it is beyond the atmosphere. Then, after completing 3D manoeuvres, make a pull-up re-entry into the atmosphere using the same 4 fins. Third phase: Pitch down manoeuvre with the four fins and, depending on range, the sustainer continuing to burn up to the target in a planned approach angle. The sustainer of the RV has a long burn time. It starts to burn out of the atmosphere and continue till near impact. Long burn rocket motor is effective in such an application. Flying at small gamma angle minimize gravity losses.

The missile is approaching the target in a steep angle and does not create a significant wake – an indication for a supersonic speed only near impact.

The Israeli senior experts said that the Iranian are probably the first country in the world to implement a rocket motor into a hypersonic RV. “On the other hand, the concept of utilising small rocket motor in an RV is not new in the Iranian designs.”

Tal Inbar added that the development of such hypersonic, long-range, strike missile requires performing set of ground and flight tests. “One might assume that they experienced some setbacks and failures along the development phase, although none were published.”

According to the expert, launch detection by US space borne assets – no change versus similar ballistic missile. However, those sensors cannot provide any more impact point prediction. Inbar explained that throughout the entire flight phases, up to the impact, there is no way to predict impact point. Moreover, during the initial sustainer burn the final impact point deviations might exceeds 100 kms (each delta speed of 1 m/s is equivalent to about 1 Km deviation). The Iranian show set of 3D manoeuvres during this phase. This Iranian design might negate some western ballistic missile defence selective engagement strategies.

Ballistic phase: Some assesses that “Fattah” missile will use depressed trajectory, so it will limit ground radars and EO sensors range due to LOS geometry.  Pull up manoeuvre phase: as the RV altitude might reach up to about 15 kms, most sensors (which are not close to this point) might lose LOS to the RV target. Pull down manoeuvre: potential high grade manoeuvres might challenge tracking elements.

The Iranian R&D community demonstrated a real and unique hypersonic missile. It is not a replica or copy of any other design. Inbar said that the Iranian succeeded to close most of their technological gap with Eastern and Western missile communities. Iran is independent in those technologies and does not rely on external support from abroad such as DPRK or Russia. The status of the program is not clear. Probably in-flight tests will be done prior to initial deployment.