A trace of the Quds in Tehran?

More than a week has passed since the attacks on Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais. While many details about the attack remain murky, at least some of the fog of war seems to have been lifted. The US, the UK, France and Germany now concur that Iran was directly responsible for the attack and a hastily convened Houthi presser featuring badly forged photographs did little to inspire confidence in the Houthis’ original claims to have conducted the attack.

We now also know a lot more about the munitions used in the strike. In an elaborate dog and pony show, Saudi Arabia presented remnants of the 18 UAVs and the seven cruise missiles fired against Khurais and Abqayq. Even though Saudi Arabia yet again misidentified the cruise missiles as Iranian Ya Ali cruise missiles, both the remnants of fuselages as well as the debris of the Czech-designed TJ100 engines show that the type of missile used was identical to the missile the Houthis call Quds 1.

As mentioned in an earlier piece, the Quds presents a bit of a mystery. Its overall design, its engine and the political context all point towards Iran as its origin, yet we haven’t seen any trace of it in Iran proper. Or so it seemed.

In February 2018, the IRGC’s Imam Hossein University held an exhibition showing defense industry achievements developed by members of the University. In a segment on the exhibition, Iran’s state broadcaster showed several wind tunnel models, including what looked like models of the Sayyad SAM system, the Zolfaghar ballistic missile, an anti-ship missile and a cruise missile reminiscent of the Ya Ali. And then there was another model of a cruise missile that showed a stunning resemblance to the Quds 1.

Since the Iranian Soumar and the Quds are quite similar in overall design (even if greatly differing in size) one could assume that the model merely resembles the well-known Soumar. However, a closer look at some of the features of the model shows that it is more similar to the Quds.

The first point to consider is the wing position. While the Soumar has a mid-wing design with foldable wings, the Quds has fixed wings situated lower on the fuselage (the Houthis apparently presented it upside down). This feature, which is quite rare in the world of cruise missiles, is also visible on the wind tunnel model.

Another important difference between the Soumar and the Quds is the shape of their aft fuselages. While the Soumar has a long rounded rear section, the Quds’ aft fuselage resembles a tube merging into a truncated coned. Again, the wind tunnel model is closer to the Quds than the Soumar, even if its rear end looks a little stockier than on the Quds displayed by the Houthis.

The nose sections of both systems also differ in shape. The Soumar’s nose is perfectly rounded; the Quds’ nose looks a little pointier. Unfortunately, the available footage of the event is just a bit too low resolution to say for sure, but it does look like the nose of the wind tunnel model is indeed closer to the Quds than the Soumar.

With these broad similarities between the Iranian wind tunnel model and the Quds 1, we have yet another data point indicating that the Houthis may not be entirely truthful when describing the Quds as a Yemeni-made system. Which, again, comes as little surprise to even the most casual of observers.