Military Wiki
Type Strategic MRBM
Service history
In service 2003–present
Used by Iran
Production history
Manufacturer Iran
Variants A,B,C,D
Diameter 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in)

Warhead One (990 kg or 2,180 lb) - five cluster warheads in new models (280 kg or 620 lb) each warhead, each warhead can target different destinations.

Engine Liquid & Solid (for models made after 2006)
1,930 km (1,200 mi)
Flight altitude 400 km [2]
Speed 2.4 km/s at altitude 10-30 km in final stage which is about mach 7[1]

The Shahab-3 (Persian: Ŝahāb 3‎; shahâb means "meteor") is a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) developed by Iran and based on the Nodong-1.[3] The Shahab-3 has a range of 1,280 kilometres (800 mi); a MRBM variant can now reach 1,930 kilometres (1,200 mi).[4] It was tested from 1998 to 2003 and added to the military arsenal on July 7, 2003, with an official unveiling by Khamenei on July 20.

The forerunners to this missile include the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2. The then-Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Shamkhani has denied that Iran plans to develop a Shahab-4. Some successors to the Shahab have longer range and are also more maneuverable.[5][6][7]

Operating under the Sanam Industrial Group (Department 140), which is part of the Defense Industries Organization of Iran, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), led the development of the Shahab missile.[8]


The Shahab-3B differs from the basic production variant. It has improvements to its guidance system and warhead, a few small changes on the missile body, and a new re-entry vehicle whose terminal guidance system and rocket-nozzle steering method are completely different from the Shahab-3A's spin-stabilized re-entry vehicle.

The new re-entry vehicle uses a triconic aeroshell geometry (or "baby bottle" design) which improves the overall lift to drag ratio for the re-entry vehicle. This allows greater range maneuverability which can result in better precision. The triconic design also reduces the overall size of the warhead from an estimated 1 metric ton (2,200 lb) to 700 kg (1,500 lb).

The rocket-nozzle control system allows the missile to change its trajectory several times during re-entry and even terminal phase, effectively preventing interceptor guidance via trajectory prediction by early warning radar—a method nearly all long range ABM systems use. As a high-speed ballistic missile and pre-mission fueling capability, the Shahab-3 has an extremely short launch/impact time ratio. This means that the INS/gyroscope guidance would also remain relatively accurate until impact (important, given the fact that the gyroscopes tend to lose accuracy with longer flights). The CEP is estimated to be at 30–50 metres (98–164 ft) or less.[9] However, the accuracy of the missile is largely speculative and cannot be confidently predicted for wartime situations.[10]

These improvements would greatly increase the Shahab-3B's survivability against ABM systems such as Israel's Arrow 2 missile as well as being used for precision attacks against high-value targets such as command, control, and communications centres.

Shahab-3C & D

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Little is known about Shahab-3C and Shahab-3D. From what can be gathered, the missiles have an improved precision, navigation system, and a longer range. The missiles were indigenously developed, and are being mass produced. Iran has a production capacity of 70 units per year.[11]

History and tests

The Shahab-3 was first seen in public on September 25, 1998, in Azadi Square, Tehran, in a parade held to commemorate the Iranian Sacred Defence Week.

Iran has conducted at least six test flights of the Shahab-3. During the first one, in July 1998, the missile reportedly exploded in mid-air during the latter portion of its flight; U.S. officials wondered whether the test was a failure or the explosion was intentional. A second, successful test took place in July 2000.[12][broken citation]

In September 2000, Iran conducted a third test, in which the missile reportedly exploded shortly after launch. In May 2002, Iran conducted another successful test, leading then-Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani to say the test improved the Shahab-3's "power and accuracy". Another successful test reportedly occurred in July 2002. On July 7, 2003, the foreign ministry spokesman said that Iran had completed a final test of the Shahab 3 "a few weeks ago" that was "the final test before delivering the missile to the armed forces", according to a New York Times report.[13]

On November 9, 2004, Shamkhani said Iran could mass-produce the missile.[14]

On November 2, 2006, Iran fired unarmed missiles to begin 10 days of military war games. Iranian state television reported "dozens of missiles were fired including Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missiles. The missiles had ranges from 300 km (190 mi) to up to 2,000 km (1,200 mi)...Iranian experts have made some changes to Shahab-3 missiles installing cluster warheads in them with the capacity to carry 1,400 bombs". These launches come after some United States-led military exercises in the Persian Gulf on October 30, 2006, meant to train for blocking the transport of weapons of mass destruction.[15]

Great Prophet III test

On July 8, 2008,[16] Iran test fired a non-upgraded version of the Shahab-3 as one of 9 medium- and long-range missiles launched as part of the Great Prophet III exercise, within a few weeks of a recently concluded military exercise by Israel.[17]

Other missiles fired include the surface-to-surface Fateh-110 and Zelzal missiles.[18] Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps air and naval units conducted these tests in a desert location.[19] Air Force commander Hossein Salami advised that Iran was ready to retaliate to military threats, saying "We warn the enemies who intend to threaten us with military exercises and empty psychological operations that our hand will always be on the trigger and our missiles will always be ready to launch".[20]

One day later, on July 9, 2008, Iran once-again fired a version of the Shahab-3, amongst other missiles, which officials have said has a range of 1,250 miles (2,010 km) and is armed with a 1-ton conventional warhead. These tests were conducted at the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to shut down traffic into if it is attacked. Independent national security webblog,, analyzed Iranian launch footage and concluded that Iranian claims of testing an upgraded Shahab missile were unfounded.[21] A senior Republican Guard commander said Iran would maintain security in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, chief of the Guards' joint staff, called the missile tests a "defensive measure against invasions". He also said, Iran will not jeopardize the interests of neighboring countries. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the French news agency Agence France-Presse which published pictures from the missile test reported that "Iran had apparently doctored photographs of missile test-firings and exaggerated the capabilities of the weapons" and that an additional missile was added afterwards to cover up a failed launch".[22]

In a sign of commercial fallout from the second missile test in two days, the French oil company Total S.A. announced the conditions were not right to invest in Iran as major oil companies have been under increasing political pressure from the United States and its allies over their activities in Iran amid mounting tensions over Iran's nuclear program. To ratchet up the pressure further, Israel also showed off its latest spy plane in what is seen as a display of strength in response to Iranian war games (missile tests).[23]

The test on 8 July 2008 caused anxiety—the tests were seen widely as a response to Israeli aerial war games staged earlier in the month. Ali Shirazi, representative of the Revolutionary Guards naval forces said, warned that Iran would "set fire" to Israel and the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf as its first response to any pre-emptive strike by America or Israel over its nuclear program.[24] Brig. Gen. Hoseyn Salami, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' air force, said: "Our missiles are ready for shooting at any place and any time, quickly and with accuracy".[25] He also made the statement that "enemy targets are under surveillance".[26] Speaking on a visit to Malaysia on the first day of the tests, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the possibility of an attack by the United States or Israel as a "joke".[25]

Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, chief of the Guards' joint staff, called the missile tests a "defensive measure against invasions". He also said that Iran will not jeopardize the interests of neighboring countries.


Shahab is the name of a class of Iranian missiles, service time of 1988–present, which comes in four variants: Shahab-1, Shahab-2, Shahab-3, Shahab-4, Shahab-5, and Shahab-6.


See also


  3. U.S. Department of Defense (2001). Proliferation: Threat and Response. DIANE Publishing. pp. 38. ISBN 1-4289-8085-7. 
  4. Federation of American Scientists. Shahab-3 / Zelzal-3
  5. RFERL - Iranian military parade
  6. Fars News Agency
  8. Gertz, William (1997-05-22). "Russia disregards pledge to curb Iranian missile output; Tehran, Moscow sign pacts for additional support". The Washington Times. 
  9. "Shahab 3: an Advanced IRBM". 
  10. Cordesman, A.H. (2005). National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses and Challenges. Center for Strategic and International Studies. pp. 30. ISBN 0-275-98811-2. 
  12. U.S. Department of Defense (2001). p. 38. 
  13. "Iran confirms test of missile that is able to hit Israel". New York Times. 2003-07-08. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  14. "Iran begins serial production of Shahab-3". Janes Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on August 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  15. [1][dead link][dead link]
  16. Cowell, Alan (2008-07-09). "Iran tests missiles amid tension over nuclear program". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  17. Gordon, Michael R.; Schmitt, Eric (2008-06-20). "U.S. says exercise by Israel seemed directed at Iran". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  18. "Iran test-fires upgraded Shahab-3 missile". Payvand. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  19. "Iran test-fires Shahab-3 long-range missile". RIA Novosti. Thaindian News. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  20. "Iran Test-Fires Missiles, Report Says". The New York Times. Reuters. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-09. [dead link]
  21. Official: Iran missile tests used 'old equipment' The AP, July 12, 2008
  22. "Did Iran doctor an image of its missile test launch?". Haaretz. Agence France-Presse. 2008-07-11. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  23. NASSER KARIMI (July 10, 5:06 PM EDT). "AllAroundPhilly". Retrieved 2008-07-11. [dead link]
  24. "Defiant Iran angers US with missile test". France 24. July 9, 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2008-07-11. [dead link]
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Iran missile test 'provocative'". BBC News. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  26. Al Pessin. "VOA News - US Says Iran's Missile Tests Do Not Make Conflict More Likely". Archived from the original on 2008-07-12. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 

External links

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