5 Weapons Iran Would Love to Buy From Russia

From Moscow with bullets.

The recent announcement that Russia will begin deliveries of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran rocked western governments—and Israel. Russia is set to deliver five battalions of the S-300 long range surface-to-air missile system, concluding a deal that was originally agreed upon by the two countries in 2007. Deliveries are projected to begin within 18 months.

Iran has anxiously awaited the arrival of the S-300s, which will help the country defend its airspace from hostile aircraft. The presence of the S-300 system will make a raid by American or Israeli aircraft on a resurgent Iranian nuclear program riskier than ever before.

But air defense missiles aren’t the only thing Iran needs. Now that Russia has re-opened the pipeline of arms to Iran, which other weapon systems might Iran want to buy? Due to a Western lack of trust in Iran’s motives—and potential misuse of weapon systems in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere—Russia will likely remain one of two nations (the other being China) willing to sell Tehran arms for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, here are five Russian weapons of war Iran might want to purchase.

Klub anti-ship missile

Iran has a long history of using anti-ship missiles to threaten shipping in the Persian Gulf. Iran famously used Chinese-made Silkworm missiles against Iraq, Kuwait and U.S.-flagged shipping. Iran also allegedly has a small number of Chinese C-802 missiles, and reportedly manufactures its own version of the weapon.

The purchase of new anti-ship missiles like the Klub would once again give Iran the capability to threaten foreign shipping, and even close the Straits of Hormuz. The new generation of Russian missiles are faster and smarter and are even capable of being launched from camouflaged platforms. The Klub could be the next Silkworm.

The Klub is a turbofan-powered missile that cruises at high subsonic (0.8 Mach) speeds just above the wave-tops. Moments before impact, the Klub pops-up and accelerates to Mach 2.9 and drives onto its target nearly vertically. That dramatically shortens the reaction time for enemy anti-missile defenses. This could be particularly problematic for foreign navies operating in the confines of the Persian Gulf.

The Klub packs a large 881lbs warhead, one version of which has a stated maximum range of 186 miles. A longer-range version, Kalibir, was used by the Russian Navy last month against Islamic State targets.

Iran might be particularly interested in the Klub K, a version that is camouflaged as a standard 40-foot shipping container. The missile system is a self-contained unit that carries four missiles and can be carried innocuously by a container or cargo ship, flatbed train car or truck transport.

T-90 Main Battle Tank

Like much of Iran’s military, the Iranian army really needs an infusion of new—or newish—equipment. Iran’s armored corps in particular has suffered in the years since 1979. The Iranian army boasted approximately 2,000 modern tanks before the Islamic Revolution. Iran currently has more or less the same number of tanks, but most are at least twenty—if not thirty or forty—years old. A sizable percentage of Iran’s tank fleet consists of American M60 and British Chieftain tanks purchased by the Shah.

The purchase of a 1,000 or more T-90 main battle tanks would go a long way toward rehabilitating Iran’s tank fleet. Although derived from the T-72, the T-90 is still a useful tank. The T-90’s 2A46M main gun is lethal, and the gun’s ability to fire the Refleks anti-tank guided missile gives it a potential one-shot kill capability out to more than 4,000 meters.

Modern defensive add-ons can help protect the T-90’s crew from current threats. Together, a combination of reactive armor tiles, the Shtora laser jamming system and the Nakidka camouflage system can work together to passively protect the tank. Active protection can be provided by the Arena system, which detects and knocks down incoming anti-tank missiles with radar-aimed rockets.

Su-35 Flanker Multi-Role Fighter

Iran’s fighter fleet, like the rest of its military, is in need of fresh equipment. Bizarre projects like the Saeqeh, an F-5 Tiger fighter modernized by adding twin tails and homemade avionics, are a sign of Iran’s desperation to match the high-tech air forces of the United States, Israel and the Gulf States.

The Su-35 was designed as a stopgap solution for the Russian Air Force until viable numbers of fifth-generation PAK FA fighters—currently under development—were fielded. The Su-35’s airframe is partly made of titanium and radar absorbent materials are used in key areas. NPO Saturn AL-41F1S engines and thrust vectoring nozzles give the Su-35 a potent combination of range, power and maneuverability.