The Sejjil missile is a two-stage, solid-propellant, medium-range ballistic missile domestically designed and built by Iran.
Sejjil at a Glance
- Originated from
- Possessed by
- Alternate name
- Ashoura, Ashura, Sajil, Sajjil
- Medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM)
- 18 m
- 1.25 m
- Launch weight
- 23,600 kg
- Single warhead, 700 kg
- HE, nuclear
- Two-stage solid propellant
- 2,000 km
- In service
- 2012 – present
Development of the Sejjil missile likely began in the late 1990s, but stems directly from development work of previous Iranian missiles, most notably the Zelzal SRBM. Its use of solid propellant, in particular, is due to fuel technology advancement made in conjunction with the Zelzal program during the 1990s, the development of which is believed to have been aided by China.1
Though the missile has a similar size, weight, and range to the Shahab 3 variants, its use of solid-propellants is a major improvement on the Shahab design. Solid propellants allow for a faster launch times, leaving the missile much less vulnerable during launch. Because solid-propellant missiles do not have to be fueled immediately prior to launch, they are more easily transported. On the other hand, solid propellant missiles have particular performance characteristics that make them more difficult to guide and control. How Iranian engineers have overcome these hurdles is unknown, but it seems likely that they have modified Shahab guidance systems and/or received considerable foreign assistance.2
The Sejjil missile has a length of 18 m, a diameter of 1.25 m, and an overall launch weight of 23,600 kg. It can deliver a payload of around 700 kg to its 2,000 km range.. Presumably the missile will carry HE warheads until Iran gains nuclear warheads. The missile’s maximum range is about 2,000 km, though these figures are based upon a missile fuselage with the weight and performance characteristics of aeronautical-grade steel.3
The first test launch occurred in 2008 and the missile reportedly flew 800km. A second launch was conducted in May 2009 to test improved guidance and navigation systems. Four other flight tests have occurred since 2009, with the sixth test flying approximately 1,900 km into the Indian ocean.4
The Sejjil missile appears to be a unique Iranian design. Though some speculation has tied the missile to the Chinese DF-11 and DF-15, the size and specifications of the missile suggest that the Iranian missile is unique. Unlike earlier Iranian systems, the missile does not appear to be a copy of a previously-released North Korean missile. Of course, it is highly likely that the missile project has made significant gains through foreign assistance. Because the design is new, Iran will probably have to subject it to a great deal of testing before putting the missile into regular operation. Assuming that the Sejjil project moves at about the same speed as foreign missile development projects, Iran could not have declared the missile operational until at least 2012. However, this still has not formally occurred, despite putting the missile on public display during a parade alongside the Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1.5 The missile has not been tested since 2012, leaving its deployment status uncertain.
There may be multiple versions of the Sejjil system. In 2009, Iran referred to the test launch as the Sejjil 2. An unconfirmed report stated the a Sejjil 3 may be in development. The Sejjil 3 would reportedly have three stages, a maximum range of 4,000 km, and a launch weight of 38,000 kg.6
After about a decade of inactivity, the Sejjil resurfaced in 2021 when Iran launched it as part of the January Great Prophet 15 military exercises.7 New footage from this test suggests that Iran has incorporated upgraded guidance systems on the Sejjil, including a ruggedised ‘strap-down’ guidance system and new jet vanes adapted from the Ghadr missile.8
- Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment, an IISS Strategic Dossier, The International Institute for Strategic Studies, (East Sussex: Hastings Print, May 2010) 54-63; see also Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems, Issue 50, ed. Duncan Lennox, (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, January 2009) 55.
- Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment, an IISS Strategic Dossier, The International Institute for Strategic Studies, (East Sussex: Hastings Print, May 2010) 54-63
- Lennox, Duncan. “Sejjil (Ashoura).” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons). September 7, 2012.
- “Iran Missile Milestones: 1985-2014” Iran Watch. April 17, 2014. http://www.iranwatch.org/our-publications/weapon-program-background-report/iran-missile-milestones-1985-2014
- Lennox, “Sejjil (Ashoura).”
- Tyler Rogoway, “Iran’s Missiles Landing Within 100 Miles of a US Carrier is Provacative but Not Much Else,” The Drive, January 17, 2021, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/38773/irans-missiles-landing-within-100-miles-of-a-u-s-carrier-group-is-provocative-but-not-much-else.
- The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Open-Source Analysis of Iran’s Missile and UAV Capabilities and Proliferation (East Sussex: Hastings Print, April 2021), 17.