Iran unveiled its first locally designed hypersonic ballistic missile on June 6, 2023, during a ceremony in the presence of Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi.
The weapon called Fattah (Conqueror in Persian) was described as the “latest achievement of the Aerospace Force of the Revolutionary Guards” (IRGC) by IRNA, the official news agency of Iran.
The agency claims that the weapon has a range of 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) and a top speed of Mach 13 to 15.
“Today, we feel that [Iran’s] deterrent power has developed,” Raisi said, as quoted by IRNA, adding that it would bring “security and sustainable peace to the region”.
Hypersonic missiles are weapon systems designed to travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound or approximately 6,174 kilometers per hour (3,836 miles per hour). The speed and maneuverability of hypersonic missiles make them extremely challenging to detect and intercept.
Commander of IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh claimed that the weapon can bypass all anti-ballistic missile systems, such as the US-made Patriot or the batteries that compose Israel’s Iron Dome.
“The beauty of this system is that it has a moving nozzle, which means we can control the vector of the missile at any moment and command it in different directions,” Hajizadeh explained. “With this unveiling, Iran became one of the four countries that have this technology.”
Hypersonic weapons: a priority for world powers
In September 2022, the United States Air Force awarded Raytheon and Northrop Grumman a contract to develop the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), a scramjet-powered air-launched cruise missile based on the results of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program.
China already fields two ground-launched hypersonic weapons, the DF-17 and the DF-21, and is developing a third missile called the YJ-21 to be launched from a ship.
Finally, Russia’s arsenal officially comprises two hypersonic platforms: the 3M22 Zircon, and the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal. It has made extensive use of air-launched Kinzhal missiles during the invasion of Ukraine.
During an intense missile attack on the morning of May 16, 2023, at least six Kh-47M2 hypersonic missiles were launched from MiG-31K fighters. The Ukrainian military claimed to have shot them down using US-made Patriot air defense systems.