The recent attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia posed a major shock to the global oil market. As news broke that the damage was caused by an actor with significant military capabilities, oil prices initially surged and concerns mounted about how long a major part of Saudi oil production would be offline. In the days since, concerns have been somewhat assuaged but uncertainties endure about the scale of the damage caused. But how were the attacks conducted? While initially thought to have been exclusively carried out by aerial drones, more recent reports indicate that 18 Iranian origin drones and at least seven cruise missiles were used.
Although much is uncertain about the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, the incident has directed considerable attention towards Iran’s cruise missile capabilities. While Iranian cruise missiles have taken center stage with a bang, Iran has in fact been quietly building up its cruise missile capabilities for over a decade. And since the war in Yemen began, Iran has also indirectly carried out combat tests on some of its cruise missiles through the services of Ansarallah, the Yemeni group also known as the Houthis. Whereas Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities are relatively well known, with each additional test launch making international news, Iran’s cruise missile capabilities have advanced under the proverbial radar. This article is intended to serve as a primer on Iran’s cruise missiles, discussing motivations, the capabilities offered by known Iranian systems, and the implications of Iran’s development and fielding of cruise missiles on the comparative military balance in the region.
Read the full report at War on the Rocks.