The Shahab-1 is an Iranian variant of the Russian SS-1C ‘Scud B,’ with few distinguishing features. It is a single-stage, liquid-fueled, short-range ballistic missile with a maximum range of 330 km. Iran employed Shahab-1s extensively during the 1990s and early 2000s against Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) camps in Iraq.
Shahab-1 at a Glance
- Originated from
- Soviet Union, North Korea
- Possessed by
- Alternate names
- Scud-B, R-17, SS-1C
- Short-range Ballistic Missile (SRBM)
- 10.94 m
- 0.885 m
- Launch weight
- 5,860 kg
- Single warhead, 985 kg
- High explosive (HE), chemical, biological, nuclear
- Single-stage liquid propellant
- 285 – 330 km
- In service
- 1985 – Present
The Shahab-1 traces its origin to the Russian SS-1C ‘Scud B’. During its 1980s war with Iraq, Iran sought to acquire greater standoff strike capability outside the range of Iraq’s superior airpower and long-range artillery.1 This requirement led Iran to purchase approximately 20 Scud B missiles from Libya in early 1985, two MAZ-543P Transporter-Erector-Launchers (TELs), and other related technologies.2 In 1986, Iran purchased at least 12 Scud B missiles from Syria, eight of which it promptly employed against Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.3
Iran purchased another 120 Scud B’s (among other weaponry) from North Korea (DPRK) in June 1987 in a $5 million arms deal.4 Between 1988 and 1994, Iran purchased an additional 150-200 Shahab-1 missiles and four TELs from North Korea.5 Iran and North Korea continued to collaborate in the following years, supporting military cooperation and technology exchanges.6
In one of these DPRK-Iran arrangements at the end of the Iran-Iraq War, North Korea agreed to help Iran develop the industrial infrastructure necessary to manufacture, assemble, and maintain an indigenous Scud B variant. These variants imported from the DPRK – as well as those now assembled in Iran – were named the Shahab-1 (translation: “Meteor-1”). The Shahab-1 is nearly identical to the North Korean Scud B variant (Hwasong-5), although it likely incorporates materials more accessible to Iran.7
Iran reportedly first test fired the Shahab-1 in 1988.8 According to Flight International magazine, Iran became capable of manufacturing Shahab-1 missiles indigenously around 1994, with production sites located in Parchin, Semnan, Shiraz, and Khorramabad.9 However, some analysts argue Iran only gained this capability around 2001.10
The Shahab-1 reportedly has a length of 10.94 m, a body diameter of 0.885 m, and a launch weight of 5,860 kg. The missile has a range between 285-330 km while equipped with a 985 kg high-explosive warhead, although it may also be equipped with a chemical, biological, or nuclear warhead.11 The Shahab-1 uses inertial navigation system (INS) guidance, which gives it a likely circular error probability (CEP) of approximately 450 m, though some estimate the CEP closer to 700 km.12 The missile is single-staged, employs liquid propellant, and is launched from the Soviet/Russian MAZ-543P transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle.13
Iran fired nearly 100 Scud B missiles against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, with its first launches in March 1985. Iran conducted 13 launches in 1985 and at least eight in 1986, quickly employing the missiles it purchased from Libya and Syria. Iran fired 77 Scuds in 1988 following its bulk purchase from North Korea the previous year.14
Between the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War, Iran fired a significant number of Shahab-1 missiles at Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) camps in Iraq.15 Iran conducted three to six launches on November 6, 1994, three on June 10, 1999, and five on November 2, 1999.16 On April 18, 2001, Iran fired approximately 30 Shahab-1’s at MKO camps within a three hour and fifteen-minute period. The six targeted camps included Anzali, Alavi, Ashraf, Faiz, Homayun, and Habib.17
Iran test fired the Shahab-1 in November 2006, July 2008, September 2009, and twice in June 2011. Local media reports suggest these tests were all successful.18 A 2010 study estimates that Iran holds 200-300 Shahab-1 missiles and approximately 20 Shahab-1/-2 TELs.19 Several 2017 reports continue to cite these numbers.20 Iran has likely deployed a large number of Shahab-1 missiles at its Iman Ali Base, located 35 km west of Khorramabad.21
- Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment, an IISS Strategic Dossier, The International Institute for Strategic Studies, (East Sussex: Hastings Print, May 2010) 13.
- Gary Samore, “Iran’s Strategic Weapons Programmes: A Net Assessment,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, August 6, 2013) 95.
- Ibid; Federation of American Scientists (FAS), “Scud B, Shahab 1”, October 20, 2016, https://fas.org/nuke/guide/iran/missile/shahab-1.htm.
- “Shahab 1 (R-17 (SS-1C ‘Scud B’) variant),” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, ed. Jane’s C O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2016), 45-46.
- Samore, 97.
- Samuel Ramani, “The Iran-North Korea Connection,” The Diplomat, April 20, 2016, http://thediplomat.com/2016/04/the-iran-north-korea-connection/; Michael Elleman, “North Korea-Iran Missile Cooperation,” 38 North, September 22, 2016, http://www.38north.org/2016/09/melleman092216/.
- Samore, 96.
- Jane’s Weapons: Strategic, 45.
- Samore, 98.
- Jane’s Weapons: Strategic, 45-46.
- The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Open-Source Analysis of Iran’s Missile and UAV Capabilities and Proliferation (East Sussex: Hastings Print, April 2021), 10.
- Jane’s Weapons: Strategic, 46.
- Uzi Rubin, “The Global Reach of Iran’s Ballistic Missiles,” Institute for National Security Studies, November 2006, 13, http://iranprobe.com/terrorism/pmoi-mek-targets-in-iraq/terrorist-attacks-with-77-scud-missiles-on-nla-camps-april-18,-2001.html.
- Jane’s Weapons: Strategic, 46; Samore, 97-98.
- Amin Tarzi and Darby Parliament, “Missile Messages: Iran Strikes MKO Bases in Iraq”, The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2001, 126, http://www.nonproliferation.org/wp-content/uploads/npr/82tarzi.pdf.
- CSIS Missile Defense Project, “Iranian Missile Launches: 1988-Present,” Missile Threat, August 17, 2017, https://missilethreat.csis.org/iranian-missile-launches-1988-present/.
- John Chipman, “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, May 10, 2010, 1, https://www.iiss.org/-/media/Silos/Press%20Releases/2010/Iran-English-Press-Statement/Iran-English-Press-Statement.pdf.
- Zachary Keck, “Iran’s Military Is Armed to the Teeth with Missiles,” The National Interest, June 25, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/irans-military-armed-the-teeth-missiles-21294; Kyle Mizokami, “Why the World Should Fear Iran’s Missiles,” The National Interest, June 24, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/why-the-world-should-fear-irans-missiles-21297.
- Jane’s Weapons: Strategic, 46.