Iran has made big strides in building a military missile capability and is in the process of producing a long-range rocket that could fly as far as 5,000km.
Although it has sought missile technology from China, Russia and North Korea, Iran is now heavily reliant on its own resources and technology for home-made missiles and other military hardware, according to a UAE defence magazine.
Its missile industry programmes picked up after the 1980-1988 war with neighbouring Iraq, in which the bulk of Iran's defence capability was destroyed, said the Abu Dhabi-based Arabic language magazine Gulf Defence.
In study entitled Iran: the past empire…the present and future republic, the magazine said Iran was the world's fourth largest military power after the United States, former Soviet Union and China before the 1979 Islamic revolution overthrew its late Shah.
"Iran's military capability was crushed during the war with Iraq…after the war, it started to cooperate with North Korea, China and Russia to rebuild its defence capability…the focus has been on missiles after it was hit by Iraqi missiles during the war," said the study by Major General Ali Mohammed Rajab, a retired Egyptian army officer.
"Iran has made substantial progress in its military industries by producing home-made long range missiles, jet fighters and tanks despite the boycott and isolation which it is suffering…this shows how skilful the Iranians are in dodging the boycott and overcoming international political and military hurdles."
Citing international military sources, the study estimated Iran's armed forces at more than 545,000 troops, including 350,000 infantry soldiers, 50,000 air personnel and nearly 20,600 navy men. Its defence spending was put at an average 2.7 per cent of the gross domestic product over the past few years, one of the highest ratios.
With such a force, the study considered Iran as militarily superior to all GCC countries, adding that nearly 70 per cent of Iran's arsenal includes old US-made weapons.
Iran's first major home-made missiles include Shahin 2 and Iqab, with a range of between 60-150km. Medium-range missiles were then developed, with a range of between 500-600km and another updated generation with a range of 1,000 developed in collaboration with North Korea and Russia.
"Iran has also produced an advanced missile named Shehab-3 with a range of 1,300km and is 17-metre long…it is capable of carrying an 800-kg warhead….the missile is a product of technological cooperation with North Korea, Germany, Russia and China…this missile is a developed version of the North Korean Nodong missile, which is itself an advanced version of the Russian Scud," the study said.
"Iran is now in the process of developing strategic missiles with a range of 2,000km…it is called Shehab-4, which depends on the technology employed in the Russian Sandal SS-4 missile, which has a range of 3,600km….it can carry non-conventional warheads weighing between 250-500kg."
It said that missile would be followed by another one, the Shehab-5, with a range of 5,000km, which Iran says is designed to serve its space programmes.
To support such missile power, Iran is also trying to acquire advanced fighters, including the Russian-built Mig29 and Sukhoi 30 as well as T-90 and T-72 tanks. It is also building an advanced electronic air control and radar system covering Iran and other Gulf countries, part of Israel, southern Russia, Turkey and other areas.
The study said it believes Iran, which has been under international pressure over its nuclear programmes, is rebuilding its military arsenal for self-defence on the grounds most of its weapons have a defence rather than an assault nature.
"Iran wants to reach a situation where it can ensure relative security to its territory, sovereignty and infrastructure…the Iranian armed forces appear to be taking into consideration the political and security concerns of other countries and in return expect those countries to take into account Iran's defence and strategic needs," it said.
"Some regional countries see in Iran an extension of their efforts to face external threats and challenges….this runs counter to the intentions and objectives of some non-regional states which are working to spark rifts within the region…Iran's concept of building its defence capability is based on the need to remove fears by its neighbours as the bulk of its military industries have a defence nature, or to a lesser extent, a deterrent nature."