The Soumar is an Iranian ground-launched cruise missile that was officially revealed to the public on March 8, 2015. It is believed to be a continuation of the Meshkat missile that was announced by Iran in September 2012. However, the origin of the Soumar appears to be from the nuclear capable Russian Kh-55. In 2005, Ukraine acknowledged that 12 Kh-55’s (without nuclear warheads) were illegally sold to Iran in 2001 through a black market counterfeit operation.
Soumar at a Glance
- Originated from
- Possessed by
- Cruise missile
- 7.24 m
- 0.514 m
- Conventional, possibly nuclear capable
- Turbofan (Soumar), Turbojet (Hoveyzeh and Abu Mahdi)
- 2,000 – 3,000 km (Soumar), 1,350 km (Hoveyzeh), 1,000 km (Abu Mahdi)
- Presumed operational
- In service
- 2012 – present (Soumar)
Most analysts contend that the Soumar is a copy of the Russian Kh-55. One major difference in the two, however, is that the Soumar is equipped with a solid rocket booster and is thus a ground launched missile, rather than the air launched Kh-55.1 One significant point of contention is the Soumar’s range. Initially, Iran claimed that its new cruise missile had a range of 3,000 km. However, to reach that distance, the Soumar would need conformal fuel tanks, which it did not have when it was unveiled in March 2015. It is estimated that this flaw would drop the range to 2,500 km (the alleged range of the Kh-55). 2
However, there is still skepticism over this updated range. The Russian missile uses a turbofan engine that analysts believe Iran is not capable of producing themselves for the Soumar. Rather, Iran has claimed to be developing a turbojet engine called the Tolou-4, similar to the French Microturbo TRI 60-2 engine. Technically a high enough thrust on a turbojet engine, accompanied with more fuel, smaller warheads, and a more aerodynamic surface (all of which the Soumar does not have), would allow it to equal the strength of a turbofan. As such, it may be reasonable to assess that the Soumar’s range is less than 2,500 km.3
In February 2019, Iran debuted the Hoveyzeh cruise missile, which is likely an evolution of the Soumar missile. Then-Defense Minister Brigidier General Amir Hatami claimed during the unveiling ceremony that the missile had a range of over 1,350 km, notably far less than the original 2,500 km reported range of the Soumar.4 At its unveiling, Iran claimed to have tested the missile to a range of 1,200 km.5 The engine housing of the Hoveyzeh missile is more typical of a turbojet engine, suggesting Iran may have incorporated that technology into the new missile.6
Iran also unveiled what appears to be a naval variant of the Soumar or Hoveyzeh in August 2020 on state television. The Abu Mahdi, named after a militia leader also killed in the strikes that killed Qasem Soleimani, was displayed with blue paint to suggest a naval role, though it was shown carried in a truck suggesting its test campaign will be carried out on land.7 Iranian sources claim the Abu Mahdi has an effective range of about 1,000 km although it is unclear how it would manage midcourse guidance updates or why the missile has a considerably shorter range than the visually similar Hoveyzeh.8 Iran claims the new missile also incorporates a turbojet engine, but denies that it is an exact replica of the Hoveyzeh with a different paint job.9
- Reuben F. Johnson, “Iran reveals new Soumar ground-launched cruise missile” Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 13, 2015
- Jeremy Binnie, “Analysis: Iranian cruise missile unveiling raises questions about range” Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 17, 2015
- “Iran Unveils Long-Range Hoveyzeh Cruise Missile,” PressTV, February 2, 2019, https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/02/02/587434/Iran-missile-defense.
- “Iran Says New Cruise Missile Successfully Fired on Revolution’s 40th Anniversary,” Times of Israel, February 2, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-unveils-new-cruise-missile-on-40th-anniversary-of-revolution/.
- The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Open-Source Analysis of Iran’s Missile and UAV Capabilities and Proliferation (East Sussex: Hastings Print, April 2021), 24.
- Thomas Newdick, “Iran Unveils New Solid-Fuel Ballistic Missile Named After the General America Killed,” The Drive, August 20, 2020, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/35891/iran-unveils-new-solid-fuel-ballistic-missile-named-after-the-general-america-killed.
- The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Open-Source Analysis of Iran’s Missile and UAV Capabilities and Proliferation (East Sussex: Hastings Print, April 2021), 26.
- Seth J. Frantzman, “Iran Denies that ‘New’ Cruise Missile is Just an Old One with New Paint,” Jerusalem Post, August 22, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-denies-that-new-cruise-missile-is-just-an-old-one-with-new-paint-639504.