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Iran Relocates Radar and Expands UAV Airfield on Qeshm

March 13, 2018

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

Qeshm island airfield is expanding (Planet Labs, 2018).

This article was originally published on

Iran continues to upgrade the UAV airfield on the island of Qeshm which sits near the Strait of Hormuz, an important maritime choke-point. Satellite imagery acquired in late 2017 and early 2018 by Planet shows workers widening and lengthening the airfield’s runway. The clearing and leveling activity suggests Iran will add a further 13 meters in width and approximately 350 meters in length. The overall runway length will likely exceed 2,000 meters.

On the north side of the runway, two new support areas—not far from where Iran deploys its mobile UAV ground control equipment and rail launchers—was added since mid-2017. The expansion of this area suggests that Iran may increase its capability to monitor vessels transiting the strait or sailing near territorial waters. If previous activity is any indicator, Iran may erect permanent structures to store equipment near operational positions for increased readiness.

On the south side of the runway, trenching—running between the existing support areas—was visible and could suggest cable laying activity. (Similar observations have been made at other airfields where Iran deploys UAVs.) Almost weekly collects reviewed for 2017 suggests UAV flights occur from Qeshm with regularity. Often, multiple platforms are observed operating simultaneously from the location. Recent imagery from October, for example, shows a larger Mohajer variant, a possible Mohajer 6, and a probable Yasir on the runway. (The  Mohajer wingspan was ~7 m).

Lastly, the radar hardstand, located on the south side of the runway, featured the Russian-built 39N6E Kasta-2E2 (Squat Eye) low-altitude surveillance radar. Previously, Iran had deployed the indigenously-developed Matla’-ol-Fajr 3. The 39N6E’s antenna vehicle as well as the hardware vehicle was identified on the stand. The mobile UHF system is mounted on the KAMAZ 6×6 chassis.

Bottom Line – Improvements to the airfield show Iran increasing the surveillance capability of  the Strait of Hormuz.

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  1. duplicitousdemocracy

    Is Qeshm part of the territory of Iran? If so, then it is absolutely none of our business to question the defence tactics of Iran and this is in effect a non story. If you want to take a look at offensive actions on a sovereign state, may I suggest looking at some before and after satellite images of East Syria, perhaps you can provide us with an interesting report by your investigative team on a very real crime by the US forces. I look forward to reading about area measurements of illegal bases, albeit with your usual pro Jihadist/US/Saudi angle.

    • Aric Toler

      Mr. Democracy,
      We frequently post articles about military developments in a range of countries, including India, China, Iran, the UAE, and so on. Nothing to do with Iran. It’s just an interesting development that we can view in satellite imagery.

      • duplicitousdemocracy

        Well Mr Toler, I was merely suggesting you might post an article on US bases in Syria. To imply you post interesting developments on a random basis is like saying you investigate alleged Syrian chemical weapons attacks with an even hand.

  2. lorenzo

    Qeshm Island is an economic free zone, and it is crucial to development of Iran’s economy. There are several oil & gas projects going on there, both settled by public and “private” conglomerates.

  3. Elvis

    Iran is a terrorist sponsor state with global ambitions. It is very busy killing people in Syria and Yemen as we speak. This information is very important and interesting since it illustrates Iran’s continuous expansion in areas where they feel they can effectively threaten international trade.

    Since ‘duplicitousdemocracy’ is likely an Iranian or Russian sponsored online identity, he does not really deserves an answer.


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