The first two production examples of a new attack helicopter were handed over to the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation (IRIAA) and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on January 2. The ceremony, attended by the Iranian defense minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, coincided with the last day of a major Iranian military exercise called Velayat-91, during which operational units fired a number of anti-ship missiles.
Iran’s new helicopter, called Toufan-2 (Hurricane), is clearly a reverse-engineered Bell AH-1J Cobra but “enjoys advanced and updated technology,” according to Vahidi, with indigenous electro-optical, laser and weapon systems. Iran acquired 202 AH-1J Internationals before the Shah was toppled, of which 62 were capable of firing TOW missiles. Iran has undertaken at least two upgrade programs of these aircraft, the Panha 2091 and HESA P4.
The Toufan-2, which was first announced as a program in May 2010, is significant in introducing a multi-sensor turret slaved to a helmet-mounted sight. Photos revealed so far show an IRGC machine with flat-panel canopy and an IRIAA helicopter with a more rounded canopy profile. Whether this signifies a service preference or whether the IRIAA aircraft is based on an original AH-1J airframe is unclear.
Iran’s missile capability is also gathering pace. At the start of January General Vahidi announced that the country had begun testing sub-systems for the Bavar (Belief) 373 long-range air defense system, an indigenous development based on the Russian S-300. Iran had reportedly signed up for the S-300 but Russia decided not to sell. Nevertheless, it is understood that Iran may have acquired S-300 technology and possibly some hardware by other means.
A worry to the Gulf states and the U.S. is Iran’s activity in the anti-ship missile arena; a new such weapon was fired by operational units for the first time during the Velayat-91 exercise. With a claimed range of 125 miles, the Qader (Mighty) is a shore-launched sea-skimming weapon that is the latest in a development line that began with the Chinese C-802 weapon. Iran received a number of C-802s before U.S. pressure halted deliveries, after which Iran reverse-engineered the weapon as the Noor. As well as its ship and shore-based applications, the Noor can be fired by the F-4 Phantom and Su-24 Fencer. A number of improvements led to the Qader, which has a longer body to house more fuel. Noors were also fired during Velayat-91, as was the Nasr-1, a short-range ship- or shore-launched weapon.