The IRGC-affiliated news outlet Tasnim has released footage purportedly showing the test launch and impact strike of Iran’s “Fattah-1” hypersonic missile, which comes as the “Fattah-2” was unveiled over the weekend in Tehran.
— ????? ??????- ????? (@Tasnim_military) November 21, 2023
Iranian state media claims that the Fattah-1 “has a range of 1,400 kilometers and hits the target at a speed of Mach 13 to 15.” The system consists of a first stage booster derived from what is likely a Kheybar-Shekan solid-fuel medium-range ballistic missile and a maneuverable reentry vehicle (MaRV) powered by a sustainer motor.
Footage was released back in June showing a test launch, however, it did not show an impact on a target.
ICYMI: Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Tuesday morning unveiled its first hypersonic missile named "Fattah" with a range of 1400 km (870 miles), in a ceremony attended by President Raisi and IRGC commanders.
Iran claims Fattah can hit Israel 400 seconds after launch. pic.twitter.com/TxIzzFFPsl
— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) June 6, 2023
Over the weekend, the IRGC unveiled its latest model of the weapons system with the showcasing of the “Fattah-2.” This latest system appears to be a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), which Iranian state media says is powered by a hydrazine fuel engine for manuevers outside the atmosphere after it detaches from the ballistic missile it was launched on. The HGV then glides (as the name suggests) to its target at high speeds while being able to manuever inside the atmosphere.
Unlike the Fattah-2’s HGV, the Fattah-1 uses a maneuverable reentry vehicle (MaRV) powered by a sustainer motor for maneuvers inside the atmosphere. The IRGC claims that the Fattah-2 has a range of 1,500km, which does not differ much from the claimed range of the Fattah-1.
There is this notion that in order to be a hypersonic weapon, it just needs to travel at or in excess of Mach 5, which is 3,800 miles per hour, but this is really not the case. The definition of hypersonic weapons nowadays has two criteria, which is that it must travel at or over Mach 5 and that it must also be maneuverable (both vertically and horizontally) within the atmosphere.
As I state regularly, there are hypersonic weapons and weapons that move at hypersonic speeds. The latter have been around for many decades and a perfect example would be intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), such as the United State’s LGM-30G Minuteman III, which can travel at Mach 23 (17,500 mph). The reason why most missiles are not considered “hypersonic weapons” is because missiles follow a predetermined, arched trajectory and lack maneuverability within the atmosphere. I understand that the definition is a bit muddy, but roping in ICBMs and hypersonic cruise missiles into the same boat does not do their differences any justice.
— IRNA News Agency (@IrnaEnglish) June 6, 2023
There are primarily two different kinds of hypersonic weapons: cruise missiles (HCMs) and glide vehicles (HVGs). In short, hypersonic cruise missiles travel at a constant speed and altitude for the duration of their flight utilizing scramjets (supersonic combustion ramjets). Scramjets are “air breathing,” meaning that they constantly take in surrounding air for their combustion and do not need an oxidizer like other rocket and missile systems.
Glide vehicles work by being placed on top of rockets that are launched to a high altitude at great speed, where they then decouple and glide back to Earth. HVGs do not have any propulsion mechanisms that can generate thrust, meaning they gain hypersonic speed from the rockets themselves and can travel at speeds in excess of Mach 20 depending on the rocket they are attached to. In Iran’s case, they are using MaRVs, which as previously stated are propelled by a motor and do not glide like HVGs.
HCM and HVG’s speed and maneuverability make them practically impossible to track and intercept. To date, there are no existing methods to intercept after it detaches from its launch vehicle (i.e. ballistic missile).