Jeffrey LewisIran Claims Solid-Fueled 2 Stage Sejjil

I love my job.

You probably noticed that the Iranians tested what Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar reportedly claimed is a two-stage, solid-fueled missile with a 1,200 mi range the other day. (Naijar gives an interview in the video, but it is in Farsi — little help? Open Source Center?)

I don’t really see the difference between this missile, Sejjil, and the Ashoura (or Ashura) that Iran claims to have tested earlier in the year — the ranges are similar and externally it looks identical to “Ashura” drawings released by MDA. (Update: Skepticism abounds.)

Josh Pollack raised some very interesting questions about Iran’s solid-fueled programs in a post on the blog, Iran’s Ashura Missile Mystery.

I don’t have any flip answers at this point — though I think it is an excellent argument for why Aegis is a more appropriate missile defense option for Europe than ground-based midcourse.

Either way, I love missile pics as much as the next guy. Wonkporn.

As usual, Fars has the best images. The images at IRNA, ISNA and Mehr seem pretty much the same. The photos may have been distributed to the news agencies.

As usual, some of the galleries don’t include call the pictures. Obsessive types at the Mehr site will want to check out images 404961 though 404968 for those two extra images.


  1. Allen Thomson (History)

    Any idea what the boxes/fairings at the bottom of the second stage(?) are?

  2. Paul (History)


    Where are the Ashura drawings released by the MDA?

    This missile is completely different from the Shahab variety and represents a significant advance on the part of Iran. A two stage solid fuel missile; distinctly different long and white smoke trail; much faster initial acceleration than Shahab-3; and what appears to be a gimbaled vernier engine for the second stage (same basic design for the Safir satellite launch vehicle). Range is probably more than 2,000 km, or perhaps the warhead weight is heavier than Shahab-3, bringing the range down to “only” 2,000 km.

  3. Paul (History)

    Iranian test of new missile called success

    “… Uzi Rubin, an expert on missiles who used to be among the Israeli Defense Ministry’s senior most authorities in the field, said the new weapons does attest to the existence of “an impressive technological capability” in Iran, but will not have a dramatic effect on Israel or the balance of power in the Middle East.

    “For Israel, it matters little whether Iran has a newer missile to replace the Shihab-III because they are both capable of hitting anywhere in Israel and both can be intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system, Arrow,” Rubin said.”

  4. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    You would ask me that.

    The MDA drawings are here and here.

    I don’t mean that the Ashura is not new, only that I don’t see the external difference between the Ashura and the Sejjil, both of which are as you point out two-stage, solid-fueled missiles. (The Iranians might be exaggerating about solid-fuel, but they might not. the Pakistani’s have the solid-fueled Shaheen II with a comparable, if not longer, range.)

    AvLeak quoted Obering saying the Ashoura is “different” and “surprised us.” (He talked a little more about it here.)

    That may have been a reference to Iran’s claims that Ashoura used solid fuel. Obering did specifically mention staging.

  5. Ben S (History)

    PressTv is claiming the missile is actually a two stage liquid-solid fueled missile.

    I don’t know but this may tally with much earlier reports of the Ghadr 101 missile

  6. JR (History)


    How do you implement gimbaled verniers on a solid-fuel system? I agree that the fairings look funny, but I don’t see much advantage to a combined solid/liquid system.

  7. yousaf (History)

    Earlier this year Ahmedinejad said they will launch a vehicle with 16 engines — presumably these would be strap-on solid fuel boosters(?).

    Anyone aware of what that reference to 16 motors could mean, especially in light of the new test?

    16 motors seems like too specific a number to just pull from the air, but then again….

  8. Paul

    Ok, I saw the drawings.

    Ashura and Sejil are in all likelihood, one and the same missile. Probably there was a name change from the Winter 2008 prototype model to the Fall 2008 operational test. Not uncommon with Iranian weapons systems in development. There may be a new name in a few months …

  9. Geoff Forden (History)

    The cowlings (which Allen understandable calls fairings) at the bottom of both stages are, I believe, the liquid propellant vernier engines used to control the direction of the missile (the thrust vector control). They also explain why Iran has been able to flight test this missile without a massive development program on thrust vector control for solid propellant missiles. This solution to TVC is in line with what I am beginning to see as a pattern of Iranian brilliant eccentricities! More on this later!

  10. Jonathan McDowell (History)

    Well, the main thing that leaps out of me from the pictures is that the nose looks just like Kavoshgar. If Kavoshgar was a Shahab-3, then it looks to naive ol’me that they stuck two Shahab-3s one atop the other and used the same forward section as before. But I defer to the experts on the color of the exhaust. Although some of those pictures on the Fars site look a bit photoshopped to me…
    – jonathan

  11. Yossi (History)

    Paul, the Hebrew version of the Haaretz article contains one more paragraph. The content is probably obvious but I find it interesting.

    It says that experts in Israel claim the missile is wholly an Iranian development and doesn’t belong to the Shihab family. This is a breakthrough from Soviet/Chinese/NK technologies used by Iran so far.

  12. Omid (History)

    Mr.Najjar says:
    “This missile is a solid-fueled,two stage one that has new and special specifics.This is a new generation of surface-to-surface missiles that has a range of nearly 2000 Km and high speed of preparation.This missile can be stored in arsenals in large amounts.The missile and launch platform is designed and built by engineers in aerospace industries [organization].This missile gives new capabilities to armed forces.As it’s told before building this missile is in Islamic Republic’s conventional activities.The launch was scheduled some months ago and doesn’t relate to recent regional activities” I think the rest is not important.Excuse me for bad translation.

    Do you think the solid-fueled engine will be used in launch vehicles?like the engine of shahab-3 that was used in Safir-e-Omid?

  13. Jochen Schischka (History)

    To Allen Thomson:

    I think that there are three possible explanations for the boxes at the bottom of the second stage (there seem to be similar boxes in the roots of the fins at the bottom of the first stage) could be. My first thought was: “Hey – these things have to be ullage motors” (indicating a liquid-fueled second stage, possibly from the Safir IRILV, and a general layout quite similar to the Agni-TD); But after looking more closely at the available photos, i now consider it more probable that these boxes contain some sort of thrust-vectoring system (possibly on both stages), either in the form of jet vanes (more likely in my opinion, since all larger missiles of “iranian” design use them) or gimballed vernier-engines (less likely – no additional flames visible next to the composite-solid-fuel exhaust plume of the first stage! Also this solution would require an additional liquid-propellant system…).

    Based on details visible on some of the higher-resolution pictures FARSNews has published, i’d say that at least the first stage and probably also the second stage casing is made of steel (characteristic weld joints!), and that the second stage has a thrust-termination system with 4 or more rectangular ports (between the end of the cable duct and the beginning of the conical guidance section directly below the triconic RV, both probably more or less identical to the ones used on the Ghadr-1), clearly indicating a solid-fueled second stage.
    The two fairings on the sides of the first stage, connected to the tail section by separate cable-ducts, seem to contain R-14/SS-5/Skean-like retrorockets for staging, indicating a rather high level of sophistication (plus first-hand experience with multi-staged missiles!) and thus some sort of external help in my opinion.
    By means of photo-measurement (i assumed that the RV is identical to the Ghadr-1) i get approximately a diameter of 1,2-1,25 meters and a length of around 15-16 meters, resulting in a liftoff-weight of about 17-20 tons.

    Somewhat of a mystery to me is the origin of this 1,2-1,25m solid-rocket-technology, as that diameter would fit in none of the arsenals of North-Korea, Russia, Pakistan or China as far as i know (although i’ve read rumors about a 1,2m-derivative of the indian Agni-2AT at…). Furthermore I don’t understand why the iranians would (let) design a completely new missile from the ground up instead of simply buying the chinese M-18/pakistani Shaheen-II (which offers, as i understand, almost identical perfomance). To me, the only imaginable reason for this would be dimensional compatibility with the ground equipment of Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1…(other suggestions welcome)…

    I also think that the english writing on the sides of both stages of the missile astonishingly could read “ASHURA” (or alternatively, it could be only some sort of number – i can’t tell for certain from the pictures available to me), giving this missile a definitive name (the official names given by the media would be “Samen” and “Sejil” – the iranians obviously love to play the name-game); can anybody translate the additional writing in farsi (for example visible in abovementioned photo 404968) and solve this little ambiguity?

  14. Allen Thomson (History)

    Thanks to Jochen Schischka for his extensive commentary. Clearly there is much to try to understand here.

    Meanwhile, these snips from a Janes article:

    New missile marks ‘significant leap’ for Iran capabilities
    By Lauren Gelfand and Alon Ben-David
    14 November 2008

    Iran announced on 12 November that it had test-fired a new medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) with a stated range of 2,000 km.

    The missile, a two-stage solid-fuel system known as Sajil, was launched from a site in western Iran near the Iraq border [Where’s that??] towards a target 800 km away, according to Western intelligence sources. As Jane’s went to press it was still unknown whether the launch was completely successful, although it appeared that the separation marking the two stages did occur.

    Tehran’s Al-Alam television reported that the new missile utilises “composite solid-propellant fuel” [What does ‘composite’ mean here? Is it different than regular solid fuel that combines fuel and oxidizer in a homogenious grain?] and that unlike the Shahab-3 MRBM, which is launched only vertically, the Sajil could be launched “at a variable angle”.

    [T]he Sajil’s diameter appears greater than the 1.25 m of the Shahab. Intelligence sources consider the Sajil to be a new name for Iran’s Ashura MRBM, which failed to deploy its second stage in an unsuccessful launch in November 2007.

  15. Paul

    JR – good question. See Jochen’s post. You are correct, vernier nozzles are unlikely for a solid fueled missile.

    Are these thrust vanes of the TVC system, placed outside of the missile body? Perhaps Sejil’s nozzle/engine was designed for a missile with a larger diameter.

  16. Omid (History)

    The sign on the nose is AIO sign and the words written below it is “Sazman e sanaye hava va faza” which means Aerospace Industries Organization.I think Ashura was the prototype name.

    Jonathan McDowell

    The similarity comes from the fact that both missiles use similar warhead.

  17. Kiumars (History)

    To Jochen;

    The Farsi writing on the missile read Sejieel and the English writing reads “43010702” or “A3010702”; as can be seen on the video at 2:00 to 2:05 and 2:34 to 2:48.

  18. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    You people are awesome.

  19. Jochen Schischka (History)

    To Kiumars and Omid:

    Thanks guys, good work!
    So the name of this missile is definitely Sejil/Sejeel/Sejieel (and the writing on the sides is an identification number – somehow i missed that in the video) and it was built/launched by the AIO (which points to a development launch – no big surprise).

    To Allen Thomson:

    “Composite propellant” in this context refers to a mixture of Al-Powder and APC in a Polybutadiene- or Epoxy-matrix. And if i’m right with my assumption that the RV is the same as on the Ghadr-1, then the diameter of the Sejil must be equal to or slightly smaller than the 1.25m of the Ghadr-1/Khavoshgar-1; Just compare the conical guidance compartments on both missiles.

    To Paul:

    Well, i think the boxes on the outside don’t contain the jet vanes (which have to protrude into the exhaust plume) themselves, but the associated motors and gearboxes. You might be right, maybe the nozzles did derive from another missile, since their end diameters seem to fill almost the complete cross-section of the missile-body (maybe 110 centimeters? -> see Ghadr-110). If this is in fact the case, then the great question is:

    Where did this stuff come from?

  20. Mark Pyruz (History)

    Mastering the technology, or at least gaining a functional understanding, is as important to the Iranians as actual performance. Self-sufficiency is usually the goal, a lesson learned from the Imposed War (1980-88). It will be interesting to see if Sejil type missiles begin appearing in hardened missile silos, types of which have appeared in the region of Tabriz.

  21. Kiumars (History)

    To Jochen;
    All of those variants of spelling are correct because phonetically they are all the same more or less (we don’t use Latin alphabets so C and S or E and I sound more or less the same to us! And forget about pronouncing “th” as in “the” because no respectable person in Iran would stick his/her tongue out so far to make such a funny sound/noise!).

    As for the missiles, although they all are functional missiles you will not probably see lots of them in production right now because they are only facilitating the production of the big one; the mother of them all (or should I say the child of them all?)!

    This is getting toooooo confusing for a simple man like me! We had been made to believe that we had no brains (but could use Photoshop to alter photos, and to me that meant having brains!) and suddenly we build lots of missiles and a centrifuge and a car engine that are all the state of art!

    [I deleted a passage from explaining Kiumar’s strong dislike for the West, just as I would someone expressing similar sentiments toward Iran. Let’s keep it technical, if we could. Ed.]

  22. Kiumars (History)

    To Omid;
    Just because two cars have the same bonnets doesn’t mean that the have the same engine! One could be petrol and the other one could be diesel!

  23. Ben S (History)

    This is an interesting argument,

    basically that the sejil is an extended two stage DF-11A missile, with the Ashura (based on the M-9) being still in development after the failure of the first test. I know the diameters don’t match up, but is anyone going to guess a predicated range based on the stats? (it could be a lot less then 2000km, perhaps just over half that)

  24. Allen Thomson (History)

    Jochen Schischka asked

    > Where did this stuff come from?

    Going off topic for a moment:

    Yeah, where indeed did it come from? It seems to me that there may be some serious problems in our understanding of what is going on in the Axis of Evil™ and friends.

    Where did Sejil come from (assuming it’s not some sort of hoax)? What was the BOE all about? What is the Arak heavy water plant for? And the new NORK test stand on the west coast?

    It’s easy to come up with dextro-paranoid interpretations of all those, but what should those of a more centro- bent think?

  25. Hairs (History)

    Allen Thomson quotes Tehran’s Al-Alam television:

    “…unlike the Shahab-3 MRBM, which is launched only vertically, the Sajil could be launched “at a variable angle”.”

    Is such a variable launch angle a new development for Iranian missile technology? If yes, then presumably it implies two important consequences:

    1) Interception of such a missile in the boost phase will be more difficult because lofting or depressing the missile’s trajectory will tend to disguise the intended target, and thus complicate the decision to shoot it down. Additionally, automatic recognition of a hostile missile launch uses kinematic templates of missile types and their parameters, which is probably quite simple for a “straight-up” launch. But against a variable launch angle the detection systems are going to have to cover a lot of new variations, which will add far more processing time and error to the recognition process.

    2) The Iranians must be very confident in their thrust vector control because at some stage in the flight they’re going to have to alter the missle’s trajectory to bring it onto its final track. This suggests that they are more advanced with their development than they are generally given credit for (think Soviet fusion weapons, or sputnik).

  26. Allen Thomson (History)

    Sajil failure?

    FWIW and mostly for the record — I don’t find this assertion elsewhere.,2933,450144,00.html

    Target Israel? Iran Tests New Long-Range Missile
    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    [much snippage]

    A senior defense official at the Pentagon told FOX News that the missile suffered an inflight problem — a possible engine failure — during the test, and the missile only traveled about 180 miles out.

  27. FSB

    Allen, or others: would 180 miles correspond to the distance attributable to just the 1st stage? i.e. was this a possible 2nd stage failure at handoff or did even just the first stage not work…assuming (ahem ASSUMING) Fox knows what it is talking about…..

  28. Kiumars (History)

    To Jeffrey Lewis;
    Re: Deleting parts of my comment.

    If I delete or alter your comments on my website you will pull your hair and cry “Censorship”! But when you chop half of my comment you call it moderation!

    To the rest;
    Look guys! If you listen to the western media and US officials then you must know that every military equipment that Iran has made has failed so far! But if that is true then why they are so worried and concerned?
    It is all part of the Psychological War.

    According to the Iranians the missile flew 800km and landed where it was supposed to land; and as many people are involved in the test covering up a failure would be very difficult. These are only tests anyway and if the missile had failed Iranians could say so without being embarrassed about it!

    I personally don’t trust a word that U.S. media and officials say (especially Pentagon!); they are still looking for Sadam’s mobile labs that they showed us the aerial photos! lol …

  29. Kiumars (History)

    To Jeffrey Lewis;
    You deliberately misinterpreted my comment; I never said I was anti west, I am anti-USA! I have no problem with any western country except USA and UK (which I consider an extension of the USA)!
    For your information the majority of the people in the west are anti-USA.

  30. JR (History)

    Re: diameters, it makes sense to me that Iran would like dimensional compatibility with all of their other handling hardware. The switch to a different diameter also gives them a convenient excuse to refuse any offers of operational hardware transfers from other countries. By refusing to import solid-fuel weapon systems, Iran can maintain their narrative about technology development and space exploration.

    Instead, they learn how to build a booster with development and technical assistance only, and then go into the production and regional arms sale business for themselves, supplying (e.g.) Syria and Iraq with new hardware in the 10+ year future timeframe. Much more profitable, and you end up with an indigenous capability that shifting alliances can’t take away.

  31. Jochen Schischka (History)

    To Hairs:

    First of all, i’d advise against interpreting too much into what the iranian (or any other) media states.

    That said, i for my part would expect the guidance systems and by this, the general mode of operation of the Sejil and the Ghadr-1 to be more or less identical; Both seem to use not only a conical compartment of somewhat similar dimensions for the guidance section below the RV, but also the same, semitrailer-based MEL with a launching table – not a launching rail (in my opinion, slant-angle-launching with a depressed trajectory wouldn’t be a good idea for such a large, rapidly-accelerating two-stage-missile anyway – unless you intend to burn a lot of precious delta-v due to aerodynamic drag in the dense lower atmosphere while supersonically heating up/melting your nose-cone).

    To Allen Thomson and FSB:

    Preliminary analysis (or rather rough estimation) lets me come to the conclusion that this missile should have a range capability of 1.600 km (low estimate) up to 2.700 km (rather optimistic high estimate) with a warhead of around 650 kg, so a 1.800 – 2.000 km maximum range seems to be credible (of course target: Tel-Aviv, but also Istanbul and maybe even Moscow). The burnt-out first stage would in this scenario fall to the ground at a distance of 150 – 220 km from the launching point (this is also the minimum range due to absence of thrust-termination on the 1. stage), but since i’ve neglected the effects of earth rotation, actual results may vary somewhat depending on the direction of the shot.

    What kind of miles were meant, statute or nautical? Or could this even be kilometers, not miles?

    By the way, it would be reasonable to assume that the upper stage and, of course, the warhead were only mock-ups at this early stage of development, especially since the Iran doesn’t have an appropriate proving ground for the ranges involved at hand.

  32. Allen Thomson (History)

    Spelling alert for googlers:

    Sejil, Sejjil, Sajil, Sajjil all show up as transliterations of whatever the original Farsi is.

  33. Betty Byrd (History)

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