Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Founded1985; 35 years ago (1985)
Country Iran
TypeStrategic missile force, Air force
RoleStrategic deterrence, Aerial warfare, Anti-aircraft warfare
Part ofIslamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh

The Aerospace Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (AFAGIR), known in the United States as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force (IRGC AF),[citation needed] is the air force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Parallel to the regular Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF), the regular air branch of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (AFIRI), the Revolutionary Guards' have their own air force. It shares facilities with the IRIAF.

Its personnel size is unknown according to the Congressional Research Service.[1]

Aviation forces

A Shahed 285 helicopter.

Most American public sources disagree and argue on which aircraft are operated by the AFAGIR.

Great Prophet Wargame by tasnimnews 01.jpg

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said in 2005 that "[t]he backbone of the IRGCAF consists of ten Su-25 Frogfoot attack aircraft (including seven flown from Iraq to Iran during the 1991 Gulf War, kept airworthy with the help of Georgian technicians) and around forty EMB-312 Tucanos". The Washington Institute also said that the IRGCAF maintained thirty Y-12 and Dassault Falcon 20 light transports, as well as MFI-17 Mushshak and Super Mushshak trainers and locally built Ababil and Mohajer reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).[2]

The AFAGIR also operates a sizable rotary-wing force consisting of around twenty Mi-171 helicopters for transport and armed assault roles, and a large transport force out of Shiraz, equipped with around fifteen ex-Iraqi Il-76s (originally operated by the IRIAF) and twelve An-74TK-200 transports.[3] Scramble backs up this picture in general, reporting An-74s, An-14s, and Su-25Ks at Tehran Mehrabad, Chengdu F-7Ms at Zahedan (while saying that MFI-17s were often reported at Zahedan incorrectly), and Il-76 AEW variants at Shiraz Shahid Dastghaib International Airport, while saying that they might be based at Mehrabad. Scramble also said that an unknown number of "new" Su-25s were delivered in 2003.[4]

However, other, later writings make no mention of Su-25s or Il-76s. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writing in August 2007, said only the AFAGIR "may operate Iran's 10 EMB-312 Tucanos", and that it "seems to operate many of Iran's 45 PC-7 training aircraft" as well as Pakistani-built training aircraft at a school near Mushshak, "but this school may be run by the regular air force". He also specifically said that reports of the Revolutionary Guards operating F-7s did not seem to be correct.[5]

Cordesman also noted claims of the AFAGIR building gliders for use in unconventional warfare, saying that they would be unsuitable delivery platforms, but could at least carry a small number of weapons. However the attached reference was a 1996 Reuters report, making the sources for such assertions extremely thin.[6] Finally, the IISS Military Balance 2007 makes no mention of aircraft at all, referring only to the Shahab 1, 2, and 3 missiles.[7]

In October 2009 it was announced that its name has been changed from IRGC Air Force to IRGC Aerospace Force.[8][9][10]

In February 2014 Jane's announced that the Barani missile system had been tested.[11] This system is a laser-guided air-to-surface missile which releases submunitions: "new generation of long-range ballistic missiles carrying multiple re-entry vehicle MIRV payloads".[11] The UN Panel of Experts identified it as a variant of the Shahab (Ghadr 1) and questioned its alleged multiple re- entry vehicle capability, suggesting instead that it carried sub-munitions.[12]

The Bina missile, which can be carried aloft and is able to be ground-launched from a rail car, was also revealed at the time.[11]

Current aircraft

Aircraft Type In Service[13] Notes Image
Close air support
Sukhoi Su-25 Attack aircraft 6[14] On 25 January 1991, seven Iraqi Air Force Su-25s fled from Iraq and landed in Iran during Gulf War Sukhoi Su-25, Russia - Air Force AN2192992.jpg
Sukhoi Su-22 Fighter-bomber 10[15] In July 2018 Iranian military technical experts successfully overhauled and modernized Su-22s, giving them the ability to carry smart bombs, fire precision-guided munitions, transfer data from UAVs, and in the near future the system necessary to utilize air-launched cruise missiles with a range of 1500 km will be installed on them. Su-17 (12387686433).jpg
Embraer EMB 312 Tucano Trainer
Light attack
15[16] Iran Revolutionary Guard Air Force Embraer EMB-312 Tucano.jpg
Toufan II Attack helicopter 1+ بالگرد توفان 2.jpg
HESA Shahed 285 Attack helicopter 1+[17] Iranian Revolutionary Guard Air Force Shahed 285 Sharifi.jpg
Ilyushin Il-76TD Strategic airlift 3[13] Adapted for aerial firefighting, as well as transport roles Watertanker IL-76D of IRGC.jpg
Antonov An-74TK-200 Tactical airlift 9 An An-74TK-200 of IRGC.jpg
Dassault Falcon 20F Utility transport 1 Pakistan Air Force No 24 Blinders Squadron Falcon DA-20 left side1.jpg
Harbin Y-12-II Transport 9[16] Iran - Revolutionary Guard Air Force Harbin Y12-II.jpg
Transport Helicopter
Mil Mi-17 Transport helicopter 38[13] A Mi-17 helicopter of IRGC Air Force.jpg
HESA Shahed 278 Light utility helicopter 3[17] Bell 206L-4 LongRanger IV C-FTHU (CTV News).jpg
Unmanned aerial vehicle
Ababil Reconnaissance, combat, anti-radar operations Ababil.png
Mohajer I/II/III/VI Strategic reconnaissance Qods Mohajer-6 (1).png
Karrar Unmanned combat aerial vehicle Karrar.PNG
Shahed 129 Unmanned combat aerial vehicle Shahed 129 (4).jpg
Yasir (copy of ScanEagle) Unmanned aerial vehicle Yasir (6).jpg
Saegheh Unmanned aerial vehicle Saegheh (4).jpg

Missile forces

The AFAGIR controls Iran's strategic missile forces.[18] In August 2013, Ahmad Vahidi. former defense minister of Iran said that his country is ranked sixth in the world in missile production.[19] It is claimed to operate several thousand short- and medium-range mobile ballistic missiles, including the Shahab-3/3B with a range of up to 2,100 kilometers, which is the mainstay of Iran's strategic deterrent. This puts even NATO members Greece, Bulgaria and Romania within striking range, if fired from Western Iran. If Iran ever produces nuclear weapons, the AFAGIR is likely to control them. Iran says that it has no intention of producing nuclear weapons.

Despite earlier roots, the Iranian military industry started the missile development program in earnest during Iran's long and costly war with Iraq. At times, throughout the war Iran found that it could not strike certain Iraqi facilities or targets with its own forces. This resulted in an ambitious missile development programme that is still continuing. Today, Iran is developing space launch vehicles and sophisticated medium-range ballistic missiles. Iran's ballistic missiles possess the capability to deliver a variety of conventional high explosive and submunition, as well as MIRVs. Iran's achievements in missile development has been called "impressive" by IISS.[20]

In May 2013 Iran's Ministry of Defense and Logistics delivered a massive number of missile TELs to IRGC AF,[21] “Iranian television footage showed at least 26 TELs lined up in two rows for the event, which marked their purported delivery to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, which operates the country's ballistic missiles”, according to the report by IHS Jane's.[22][23]

Any Iranian long-range intermediate-range ballistic missile or intercontinental ballistic missile would require an extraordinarily effective guidance system and level of reliability to have any real lethality with conventional warheads, even if it could be equipped with a functional GPS guidance platform. It would probably require nuclear warheads in order to compensate for critical problems in accuracy, reliability, and warhead lethality.[12]

Short range missiles

Solid fuel program

The foundations for this were laid with the Oghab and Shahin-II missiles. These would lead the way for a number of other rocket artillery systems including Fajr, Nazeat, and Zelzal. The initial effort in this area relied heavily on technical help from the People's Republic of China in the form of assembly and manufacturing contracts during 1991 and 1992. Iran was quick to surpass the Chinese level of assistance and became self-sufficient.


Bina is a laser guided dual-capability short-range surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missile. It appears to be an AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile with a semi-active laser (SAL) seeker fitted to its nose.[11] Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said the ballistic missile had radar-evading capabilities. "The new generation of long-range ground-to-ground ballistic missile with a fragmentation warhead and the laser-guided air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile dubbed Bina (Insightful) have been successfully test-fired. The Bina missile is capable of striking important targets such as bridges, tanks and enemy command centres with great precision."[24]

Liquid fuel program

After the war, Iran's experience of liquid fuel missiles had purely focused on the reverse engineering of Scud-B missiles. However, with the post war reorganisation the focus of the effort quickly changed and focused on assembly and maintenance. A domestic version of the Scud-B, known as Shahab-1, was developed and manufactured. This led to its successor the Shahab-2, a variant of the Scud-C with a range of 500 to 700 km,[25] and finally the Shahab-3.

Since the end of the war, Iran has consistently attempted to recruit foreign help, as well as its large and highly qualified expatriate population, into its missile program. Iranian expatriates who left with the revolution have been slow to return, but many are now doing so and thus heralding a new age for Iran's missile development programme with their tremendous wealth of technical experience.[citation needed]

Other missile systems

Iran has an arsenal of short-range, liquid-fueled missiles including the Scud B and Scud C, and is now able to produce SCUD type missiles on its own, such as the R-17E, a variant of the Russian Scud B. The Aerospace Industries Organization, a subsidiary of Iran's Ministry of Defense, supports the manufacturing process by engaging in SCUD missile restoration. Its short-range missile inventory also includes solid-fueled missiles, such as the Tondar-69 and the Fateh-110.

Also, Iranian artillery rockets include the Samid, the Shahin-II Artillery Rocket, the Naze'at Artillery Rocket, the Zelzal-1, the Zelzal-2 and the Zelzal-3.

Longer range ballistic missiles (1000 km plus)

As of 2009, Iran has an active interest in developing, acquiring, and deploying a broad range of ballistic missiles, as well as developing a space launch capability. In mid-July 2008, Iran launched a number of ballistic missiles during military exercises, reportedly including the medium-range Shahab-3. Iran announced other missile and space launch tests in August and November 2008. In February 2009, Iran announced it launched a satellite into orbit and “officially achieved a presence in space.”[26]

Fajr-3 MIRV

The Fajr-3 is currently Iran's most advanced ballistic missile. It is a domestically-developed liquid fuel missile with an unknown range. What makes it Iran's most advanced rocket is that the Iranian government says it has multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRV) capabilities. Its MIRV capability may give it the ability of avoiding anti-missile surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The missile was last launched during Holy Prophet wargames, which was the IRGC's largest naval war games ever. The Fajr-3 and the Fajr-3 artillery rocket are different systems.


Shahab-3 is a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) that was built by Iran's military. Its first model, also known as Shahab-3A has a range of 1,300 km (810 mi). Soon after Iran came with a new model called Shahab-3B, which has a range of 2,000 km (1,200 mi), and can carry a heavier warhead. Making this missile was a major step in Iran's missile industry, and it opened the way to longer-range missiles. Shahab-3D, which followed the Shahab-3C, is Iran's latest Shahab model. A 2,000-kilometre (1,200 mi) range including Russia (as far as Moscow), Ukraine, parts of Hungary, Serbia, Greece, Egypt, Arabia, parts of India and China, as well as countries closer to Iran.

Jane's Information Group said in 2006 that Iran had six operational Shahab-3 brigades, the first of which was established in July 2003. They said that the six brigades were mainly equipped with standard variants, but with others described as enhanced Shahab-3 variants, with ranges of 1,300, 1,500, and 2,000 km (810, 930, and 1,240 mi), respectively.[27] Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies however said only in August 2007 that 'the air force of the IRGC is believed to operate Iran's three Shahab-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles units' while noting that their actual operational status remains uncertain.[5]


The Ghadr-110 is a medium-range ballistic missile designed and developed by Iran. The missile has a range of 1,800[28] to 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi)[29] and as such is the Iranian missile with the longest range.

It is believed to be an improved version of the Shahab-3, also known as the Ghadr-101. It has a liquid-fuel first stage and a solid-fuel second stage, which allows it to have a range of 2,000 km.[29] It has a higher maneuverability than the Shahab-3 and a setup time of 30 minutes which is shorter than that of the Shahab-3.


In November 2007, Iranian Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced that Iran had built a new missile with a range of 2,000 km (1,200 mi), the Ashoura missile. He did not say how the missile differed from the Shahab-3, which has a range of 2,100 km (1,300 mi).

He told the gathering Basij militia during the manoeuvers they were holding that same week that the "construction of the Ashoura missile, with the range of 2,000 km (1,200 mi), is among the accomplishments of the Defence Ministry".[30]

According to Jane's Defence Weekly,[31] the Ashoura represents a major breakthrough in Iranian missile technology. It is the first two-stage MRBM using solid-fueled rocket motors instead of the existing liquid-fueled technology used on the Shahab. This would dramatically reduce the setup and deployment time for the missile and hence, shorten the amount of warning time for the enemy. Jane's noted that while the development parallels Pakistan's Shaheen-II MRBM there is no evidence to suggest there had been any prior technology exchange or with its other known technology partners such as North Korea or China.


Sejjil-2 (right) and Qiam (left) missiles

The new two-stage solid-fuel missile has a range of nearly 2,500 km (1,600 mi), it was tested on 12 November 2008. An improved version, the Sejjil-2, was tested on 20 May 2009. Improvements include better navigation system, better targeting system, more payload, longer range, faster lift-off, longer storage time, quicker launch, and lower detection possibilities.


US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on 11 February 2014 that Iran was expected to test "a missile system that could potentially have ICBM-class range", a possible reference to the Simorgh satellite launch vehicle (SLV) on which Iran is working.[11]


On October 10, 2015, Iran launched a new missile, the Emad. The Emad is capable of delivering a nuclear weapon and has a range of 1700 km (ca 1000 miles), enough to reach all of Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is considered to represent a great advance in accuracy, with a guidance and control system in its nose cone that functions during reentry into the atmosphere.[32]

As a consequence of Iran's nuclear deal (JCPOA), on 20 July 2015 the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 was endorsed,[33] replacing the Resolution 1929, which "called upon" Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons".[34] It has been argued that the language is not a legal prohibition.[35] The U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that the Emad missile was inherently capable of delivering a nuclear warhead which is therefore a violation. However, Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador disputed this interpretation: "a call is different from a ban, so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call".[36] Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, responded by saying that since Iran does not possess nuclear weapons nor does it ever intends in having one, it does not design its missiles (Emad) to be capable of carrying something it does not have.[37] Nevertheless, the testing of the Emad missile took place before the adoption of the Resolution 2231. The US, France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, and Australia asked the UN Security Council to investigate and take appropriate action.[38]


Khorramshahr missile


Hoveyzeh cruise missile

The Hoveyzeh Cruise Missile is an all-weather, surface-to-surface cruise missile.[39][40][41] The Hoveyzeh is from the Soumar family of cruise missiles.[39][42] The missile was unveiled and put on display on February 2nd 2019 at an exhibition of defense achievements in Tehran during commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.[39] The surface-to-surface cruise missile is capable of low altitude flight and has a range of 1350 km,[39][42] a maximum range has not yet been given.[43]

It has the ability to strike ground targets with high precision and accuracy. Its motor utilizes a turbofan, it releases low heat signatures and the missile is equipped to deal with the most sophisticated types of electronic warfare.[39][42][44][45]

Discussing the capabilities of the missile, the Israeli military intelligence website DEBKAfile states that there is: "...no military force in the world has so far found an effective means of intercepting cruise missiles before they strike, unless they are short range." The missile is essentially immune to any sort of radar and missile defense systems.[44][45]

Surface-to-air missiles

Although air defense reportedly belongs organizationally to the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defense Force, the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 indicated that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also operate surface to air missiles.[46]


  1. ^ Kenneth Katzman (6 February 2017), "Iran's Foreign and Defense Policies" (PDF), Congressional Research Service, Federation of American Scientists, p. 24, retrieved 1 March 2017
  2. ^ Much of this section is a straight copyvio from Fariborz Haghshenass, Iran's Air Forces: Struggling to Maintain Readiness, WINEP PolicyWatch #1066, December 22, 2005.
  3. ^ This sentence is a straight copyvio from Fariborz Haghshenass, Iran's Air Forces: Struggling to Maintain Readiness, WINEP PolicyWatch #1066, December 22, 2005
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-11-18. Retrieved 2007-11-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), accessed 11 October 2007. See also Liam Devlin & Tom Cooper, "Iran boosts Su-25 fleet", Jane's Defence Weekly, Vol. 43, Issue 38, 20 September 2006, p.18, which claims the IRGC AF now has 13 Su-25s in service.
  5. ^ a b Anthony Cordesman, Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the Al Quds Force, and Other Intelligence and Paramilitary Forces, Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 16, 2007 (Rough Working Draft), page 6.
  6. ^ Cordesman, August 2007; the Reuters report was cited as "Reuters, June 12, 1996, 17:33"'.
  7. ^ IISS Military Balance 2007, p.225.
  8. ^ "sepah restructuring". BBC persian.
  9. ^ "Changing IRGC Air Force name to Aerospace Force". Newsiran. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26.
  10. ^ "Changing IRGC Air Force name to Aerospace Force". Farsnews.
  11. ^ a b c d e Jeremy Binnie (February 13, 2014). "Iran announces new missile tests". janes.com. IHS Jane's. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  12. ^ a b https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/141007_Iran_Rocket_Missile_forces.pdf
  13. ^ a b c World Air Forces 2013 – Flightglobal.com, pg 18, December 11, 2012
  14. ^ Iran Sends 3 Attack Planes to Iraqi Government nytimes.com
  15. ^ https://www.defenseworld.net/news/23047/Iran_Upgrades_10_Su_22_Fighter_Jets_Domestically#.XYwxAWBKjIU/
  16. ^ a b Pike, John. "Iranian Air Force Equipment". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  17. ^ a b https://www.airrecognition.com/index.php/archive-world-worldwide-news-air-force-aviation-aerospace-air-military-defence-industry/global-defense-security-news/2019-news-aerospace-industry-air-force/september/5481-iranian-irgc-force-equipped-with-home-made-helicopters.html/
  18. ^ IISS Military Balance 2007, p.225.
  19. ^ Former official cites weapons gains Washington Post
  20. ^ "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Timesonline.co.uk. 2002-04-30. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  21. ^ وزارت دفاع صورت گرفت:تحویل انبوه سکوی پرتاب موشک‌های دوربرد زمین به زمین به نیروی هوافضای سپاه[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Report: New Iranian Missile Launchers Could Overwhelm Israeli Defenses". USNI News. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  23. ^ "BREAKING NEWS Iran equips IRGC Aerospace Force with long-range missile launchers to hit israel". YouTube. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  24. ^ Reuters (10 February 2014). "Iran Test-Fires Long-Range Missile". Retrieved 11 June 2017 – via Huff Post.
  25. ^ "Shahab-2 (Scud C)". Federation of American Scientists. Feb 2015. Archived from the original on October 1, 2015.
  26. ^  This article incorporates public domain material from the Congressional Research Service document: "Iran's Ballistic Missile Programs: An Overview" (PDF).
  27. ^ This section was wholesaled copied from Jane's Information Group, [1], 2006
  28. ^ "RFERL – Iranian military parade". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  29. ^ a b "Fars News Agency". farsnews.com. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  30. ^ Swissinfo Iran says has built new long-range missile[permanent dead link] November 27, 2007
  31. ^ JDW: Iran adds Ashura to missile line-up November 26, 2007
  32. ^ "Iran tests new precision-guided ballistic missile". Reuters. Oct 11, 2015. Archived from the original on October 11, 2015.
  33. ^ "UN Documents for Iran". www.securitycouncilreport.org. Retrieved 2016-04-19.
  34. ^ United Nations Security Council (20 July 2015). "Resolution 2231" (PDF). UN Security Council Online Archives - 7488th meeting. UN S/RES/2231. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  35. ^ "U.S. Looks to Sidestep U.N. on New Iran Sanctions". US News & World Report. 2016-03-29. Retrieved 2016-04-19.
  36. ^ "U.S. vows to push for U.N. action on Iran despite Russian opposition". Reuters. 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2016-04-19.
  37. ^ ANU TV (2016-03-15), Resolving crisis in the Middle East: an Iranian perspective, retrieved 2016-04-19
  38. ^ "US, France ask UN to take action against Iran". The Statesman. Oct 22, 2015. Archived from the original on October 23, 2015.
  39. ^ a b c d e "Press TV article titled: "Iran unveils long-range Hoveyzeh cruise missile"". Press TV. February 2, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  40. ^ Staff, Toi (February 2, 2019). "Times of Israel article titled: "Iran says new cruise missile successfully fired on revolution's 40th anniversary"". Times of Israel. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  41. ^ "Iran unveils long-range Hoveyzeh cruise missile". Tehran Times. February 2, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  42. ^ a b c Scarsi, Alice (February 3, 2019). "World War 3: Furious Iran taunts US with new cruise missile vowing to 'respond to threats'". Express UK. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  43. ^ "Iran unveils, successfully tests new long-range cruise missile (VIDEO)". RT (Russia Today). February 2, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  44. ^ a b Shalem, Diane (February 2, 2019). "Neither Israel nor US has the capacity to counter Iran's new cruise missile". DEBKAfile. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  45. ^ a b "Israeli Missile Defence Network Can't Stop Iran's New Cruise Missile – Report". Sputnik. February 4, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  46. ^ "Iran's Aerospace Force Commander Accepts Personal Responsibility For Downing Airliner". Radio Farda. January 11, 2020.

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