The Palestinian militant group Hamas provided an insight into its rocket manufacturing programme on 14 December when it paraded its longer-range models for the first time through Gaza city.
The rockets on display included the self-produced J-90 and R-160, as well as a quad launcher for the M-75 and what appeared to be an Iranian-made 333 mm Fajr-5.
Hamas announced the existence of both the J-90 and R-160 in July, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were attempting to suppress the group’s rocket attacks with Operation ‘Protective Edge’, but this is the first time the rockets have been seen clearly.
The R-160’s 160 km range is similar to that of the Syrian-made M-302 rockets that the IDF said have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The rocket displayed on 14 December also appeared to have a similar calibre as the 302 mm M-302. However, its rear fin assembly was clearly different from the M-302 rockets that the Israeli Navy found in an arms shipment heading from Iran to Sudan in March.
Possibly more intriguingly was that the group also paraded a new rocket that is even larger than the R-160, labelled as the ‘Qassam ??’.
Given that the numbers in the names of Hamas-made rockets reflect their claimed maximum ranges, the use of question marks in the rocket’s designation appears to be a deliberate attempt to prompt speculation about its capabilities.
The photographs of the rocket on the back of a Kamaz truck allow its size to be estimated: it has a length of approximately 6.6 m and a diameter of around 425 mm. This would make it significantly larger than the R-160, so theoretically it could have a range in excess of 160 km.
There would ostensibly be little point in fielding a rocket with a longer range as the R-160 is already capable of reaching nearly all Israeli population centres that Hamas could hope to hit with an unguided rocket. However, Hamas might be hoping to develop a rocket that can be fired at such a steep trajectory that it cannot be effectively intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.