Defense Update - News Analysis by David Eshel

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Iran's Long-Range Missile Program: Nato's Next Challenge

The post-Cold War era has been marked by new concern over an escalated
arms race, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the evolving role of state and non-state actors in the acquisition, spread, and employment of WMD. Long range Ballistic missile threats will increase the vulnerability of European population centres. This has already produced substantial changes in strategic perceptions of the Mediterranean countries. The southern flank of the Alliance – from Portugal to Turkey – would be especially vulnerable to attack by medium and long-range missiles emanating from so-called 'rogue' countries. The most serious threat is faced by Turkey, which is fully exposed to air and missile risks from Iran. In responding to this perceived threat, Allied leaders decided, after 1994, to step up NATO´s drive against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Two groups have been established to study the issues involved: one that focuses on the political and preventive aspects of NATO´s approach to dealing with proliferation (Senior Politico-Military Group on Proliferation); and the Senior Defence Group on Proliferation, which is responsible for considering how NATO´s defence posture can support its non-proliferation efforts and provide protection to the organisation´s members should the latter fail. However, sofar little has been done effectively to curb the threat.
WMD topped missiles are likely to be used against deployed NATO forces involved in regional contingencies, like UN-mandated peace-keeping, peace-making or peace-enforcement, the military enforcement of trade sanctions, and embargoes.
Overall, the Alliance has reasons to be worried about the strategic consequences for its members of the proliferation of WMD.
A foremost dangerous element in WMD and missile proliferation is the Islamic Republic of Iran (Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran ). Iran's missile and possibly, its WMD program, has passed the point of no return. The Iranians cannot be stopped anymore. They have their indigenous capability now and they will continue with their programs regardless of what the international community thinks. Iran will continue to develop missiles because their missile industry has nothing to do with the degree of radicalism of the regime. For Iran it is a matter of pride. Iran's missile program has become a national program that will be unaffected by any regime change.
Iran's Ambitious Missile Program
Iran is rapidly attaining self-sufficiency in missile production and deployment. It is currently pursuing an ambitious missile program that, coupled with its nuclear aspirations, is perceived as a growing threat.
Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources have reported that Iran is actively trying to develop the Shahab-4 missile, which is thought to have a range of 2,000 kilometers and a warhead of around 1,000 kilograms. The Iranian Defense Minister admitted in February 1999 that Iran was in the process of constructing the Shahab-4 missile, but said it was for launching a satellite into space. However, its range would bring far-away targets such as Germany and western China within Iran's reach.
Currently, the bulk of Iran's ballistic missile inventory still consists mainly of North Korean-supplied Scud Bs that have a 320km range (200 miles) and Scud Cs with a 550km range (340 miles).
Reliable intelligence reports indicate that China has supplied Iran with more than 200 160km-range (100 miles) CSS-8 tactical ballistic missiles. However the pattern of Iran's missile technology acquisitions since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 suggests that its ultimate goal is the establishment of an autonomous tactical ballistic missile (TBM) manufacturing capability. Chinese and North Korean assistance has given Iran the capability to assemble complete Scud B and Scud C TBMs from knock-down kits imported from North Korea. Iran also may have been following the Iraqi model by attempting to increase further the range of its Scud Bs and Cs through modifications. However, North Korea remains Iran's key missile technology supplier.
The Iranian Missile Production Infrastructure
The main design center is reported to be located at the Defense Technology and Science Research Center, which is a branch of Iran's Defense Industry Organization, and located outside Karaj — near Tehran. This center directs a number of other research efforts. Some experts believe it has support from Russian and Chinese scientists. Intelligence satellite images revealed concrete underground shelters and tunnels in Iranian coastal areas which could be used to store Scud and other missiles in hardened sites reducing their vulnerability to air, or missile attack.
North Korean-built plants at Isfahan and Sirjan can produce liquid fuels and structural components, while a Chinese-built production facility near Semnan is the centre of Iran's efforts to develop and produce the Mushak-series of TBMs with ranges between 120 and 200km (75-125 miles).
Another facility was sighted near Bandar Abbas probably assembling of the Chinese Seersucker. China is said to have built this facility in 1987, and is believed to be helping the naval branch of the Guards to modify the PRC Seersucker ( HY-2 [Hongying / Hai Ying] coast-to-ship defensive tactical missile weapon system to extend its range to 400 kilometers.
Iran's main missile test range is said to be further east, near Shahroud, along the Tehran-Mashhad railway. A telemetry station is supposed to be 350 kilometers to the south at Taba, along the Mashhad-Isfahan road. All of these facilities are reportedly under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Updated Iranian Missile Potential 2004
While efforts continue to field longer range ballistic missiles, the Soviet-designed Scud-B ( Shahab-1 'Meteor' ) guided missile currently forms the core of Iran's ballistic missile forces. The Scud-B is a relatively old Soviet design (the R-17E or R-300E) that first became operational in 1967, and has a range of 290-300 kilometers with its normal conventional payload. Its main mission is defensive, against near regional threats.
The Scud-B comes with a conventional high-explosive warhead weighing about 1,000 kilograms, of which 800 kilograms are the high-explosive payload and 200 kilograms are the warhead structure and fusing system. It has a single-stage, storable, liquid-rocket engine and is usually deployed on the MAZ-543 eight wheel transporter-erector-launcher (TEL). It has a strap-down inertial guidance which uses three gyros to correct its ballistic trajectory, and has internal graphite jet-vane steering. The warhead hits at a velocity above Mach 1.5, with Circular Error Probability (CEP) 450m rad.
A longer range version, Scud-C ( Shahab-2) reportedly co-designed by North Korea and PRC, known as Hwasong 6. With a range between 500-700km warhead about 700kg, but its 50m CEP renders more accuracy.
Experts estimate that Iran could possibly modify the warhead to increase the payload at the expense of range for more lethal agents such as persistent nerve gas.
The Shahab-3 ( aka Zelzal-3 comes from a verse in the Koran meaning "resurrection day earthquake.") is reportedly a derivative of the North Korean NoDong-1 single stage liquid fueled 1000-1350km range missile. Its approx 1000kg warhead impacts within 190m CEP (improved version ?) at yet unspecified (but seemingly higher) Mach velocity).
On 20 October 2004 Iran conducted a test of the Shahab-3. Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani said the Defense Ministry has upgraded the former version of Shahab 3 guided missiles and test fired it in the military exercise called `defense shield exercise`.
Israeli missile experts having access to intelligence photos of the latest ( October 2004) Shahab-3 test, estimate that improvements on the warhead could permit slower entry into the atmosphere, which are necessary for chemical payloads. It appears that the missile was fired from a different launch vehicle and that the traditional cone-shaped warhead, used in previous tests, was replaced by a new one, flatter type, fitted with short 'canard' type winglets, which could indicate search for higher accuracy on CEP impact.
Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources have reported that Iran is actively trying to develop the Shahab-4 missile, which is thought to have a range of 2,000 kilometers and a warhead of around 1,000 kilograms. According to some analysts, the Iranian Shahab-4 missile is believed to be a derivative of the 1,500-kilometer range North Korean NoDong-2 (ND-2), an extensive redesign of the Scud technology.
However, other reports claim that the missile is based on the Soviet SS-4 Sandal
missile and is entirely a product of Russian missile technology. According to expert estimates, the missile could use two booster stages equipped with the No Dong engines, or a single No Dong engine on top of a more powerful Russian-designed motor. Israeli sources have claimed that Russia has been providing Iran technology from the SS-4 program.
Quoting from the Oct. 1, 1998, The Washington Times, "Israeli, Prime Minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Iran is developing the Shahab-4 which can reach well into Europe, and the Shahab-5 (and 6?) which (will have the capacity) to reach the Eastern Sea board (of the United States)". The article went on to quote from the Blue-ribbon Congressional commission, headed by then former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. There are indications that the Iranians adopted the North Korean intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM), Taep'o-dong-2 (TD-2) technology, which is said to be a two or three stage missile, its third stage including a solid fuel motor and warhead, with a 700-1,000 kg payload, estimated at approximately 3,650-3,750 km range. Israeli intelligence name the Shahab-5 Kosar ( 'Stream of eternal life in paradise' in Farsi). Its launch vehicle also known as the Shahab-5 (and 6), was suggested to be the Iranian variant of the North Korea's Taep'o-dong-2 booster.
On February 9, 2000, The Washington Times, disclosed the following information,. "North Korea recently sold Iran a dozen medium range ballistic missile engines"---- (in November 1999). The engines arrived in Iran on Nov. 21, (1999) after they were spotted being loaded aboard an Iran Air Boeing 747 cargo jet that left Suinan International Airfield about 12 miles north of-----Pyongyang (North Korea)".
On June 2, 2004, the Iranian Defense Ministry announced that it was producing Iran's first stealth cruise missile, also called Kosar, which would be capable of hitting ships and aircraft.
Iran may have even more ambitious aims in store. Some sources claim that the Russians are helping a solid-fuel design team at the Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group in Tehran develop a 4,500 kilometer missile, capable of reaching London and Paris, and a 10,000 kilometer range missile that could strike cities in the eastern United States. While these objectives seem still far fetched, they might well indicate where Teheran's aspirations lay!
European Ballistic Missile Defence Plans
The reluctance of America's European allies to support and pursue their own national missile defense was traditionally the result of a strategic calculation: that most European states are unlikely to wage war against the emerging ballistic missile powers, including Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Whereas the U.S. feared that its security commitments, coupled with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, would make it an attractive target to would-be aggressors, Europe's strategic situation rationally argued against investing in National Missile Defence (NMD), like the USA and Israel.
Europe is involved in ballistic missile defense, but at the theater level. The Netherlands and Germany, for example, have decided to buy the "PAC-3," a newer version of the Patriot theater missile defense system, while Germany's DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and Italy's Alenia take part in a Lockheed Martin-led consortium to build the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) to counter short-range ballistic missile threats. In 2001, NATO awarded contracts to multinational teams to design a full-spectrum TMD system using both American and European defence companies. This, and other TMD activity, shows that Europe is not categorically opposed to ballistic missile defense, but interest in such systems does not translate into support for a full-fledged NMD. These TMD systems, designed to cover the "lower-tier" of a layered air and theater missile defense, are capable only of shielding relatively small areas from short-range missiles. At this time, Europe has no plans to pursue national missile defense systems that could counter long-range ballistic missiles of the kind that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq are expected to wield soon.
There were other trends in the mid-nineties, though.
On October 23, 1996, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt. Hon. Michael Portillo, presented, in his speech to the Belgian Royal Institute of International Affairs, the strongest case made to date by a senior British minister for the deployment of defences against ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), that are defined as nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons.
Mr. Portillo's speech was a significant indication of the evolution of British policy on the threats posed by WMD and ballistic missiles and the need to counter them.
Studies were ordered to assess scenarios involving missile threats to British forces deployed abroad, to British sovereign territory and to the British Isles, and to examine the feasibility of a range of possible responses that might be adopted to defend against these threats.
The increasing official UK concern with these threats was also reflected by unusually blunt public statements by Admiral Sir Peter Abbott, UK Commander-in Chief, Fleet, then NATO's Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Atlantic.
If NATO's future -- as many of its observers suggest -- is in conducting large-scale "out-of-area operations," then a European belief that it is immune from war with Iran and North Korea does not bode well for the alliance. If Europe resigns itself psychologically to peacekeeping missions and other low-intensity conflicts, a division of labour could develop whereby the United States alone is responsible for, and capable of responding to, major out-of-area contingencies.
A Transatlantic Approach to the Threat
In August 2004, Washington watched with skepticism as European diplomats again tried to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions. On both sides of the Atlantic, there is agreement that a nuclear armed Iran would be a disaster for the region and possibly a last gasp for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). However, American and European politicians have little in common to resolve this dangerous threat. A coordinated transatlantic strategy for ending Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and their delivery platforms should become first priority on a common transatlantic political agenda. But meanwhile Europe has to take an active part in preparing for defence against WMD- armed ballistic missiles and with Iran, investing its national resources to achieve long range missiles capability, time is running out for Europe and NATO.
Europe's long standing attitude of self delution against an approaching threat must finally end in a more active confrontation to the problem. European capitals need to move beyond the economic self interest that motivates their Iran policies and take a tougher line on a range of issues, from Tehran's support of terrorism to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Europe and Nato can no longer afford continue to sit on the fence and wait for others to do their job.
National Missile Defence Programs
In January 2002, the US Secretary of Defense created the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and consolidated the ballistic missile defence programs under the new agency. The rationale behind this decision was the creation of a comprehensive, integrated Ballistic Missile Defense Systems (MBDS) that provides a layered defence capable of countering threat missiles in all phases of flight.
Lethality has long been defined at intercept. Kill criteria have been based on destroying the lethal payload, dismembering the warhead or rendering the payload inert, or damaging the aeroshell sufficiently to prevent the threat missile from hitting its intended target.The planned GMD 2004 Test Bed program expected to accomplish some of these objectives. According to latest updates, US missile defence should near combat-ready status by the end of 2004. The DoD Missile Defense Agency, is conducting a series of battle management trials, in which portions of the system will be tested. The US Navy could deploy its destroyer based Aegis system in the Sea of Japan providing forward surveillance and tracking of North Korean missiles. A similar option will be placed in the Persian Gulf region.
The land based portion of BMDS is planned in silos at Vandenberg AFB, California by end 2004.
The Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is a mobile ground-based missile defense element designed to protect forward-deployed military forces, population centers, and civilian assets from Short and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile attacks. THAAD is intended to intercept incoming ballistic missile using kinetic engery "hit-to-kill" technology. The THAAD system us intended to be capable of intercepting missiles at either high endoatmospheric or exoatmospheric altitudes. THAAD plans to provide an upper-tier missile layer of defense complimenting the lower-tier PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).
The Airborne Laser (ABL) is intended to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles during their boost phase. The ABL engagement concept is to place laser energy on the threat missile booster motor casing, rupturing or damaging it sufficiently to cause the missile to lose thrust or flight control and fall short of its intended target. The ABL engagement of ballistic missiles in the boost phase is intended to negate the missile before decoys, warheads, or submunitions are deployed.
Currently three Block configurations are planned: Blocks 2004, 2006, and 2008. Blocks 2004 and 2008 are on Boeing 747 transport aircraft modified to accomodate ABL systems. Block 2006 consists of hardware and software updates and continued testing of the 2004 weapon system. Block 2008 will also include the "Iron Bird," a ground test facility constructed inside the hull of a 747.
The ABL Block 2004 test program has significantly improved in the last year due to extension of the testing schedule, resulting in a more realistic plan. The primary goal for Block 2004 is to demonstrate an ability to defeat a threat ballistic missile using an airborne laser.
The Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) replaces the current Defense Support Program (DSP). SBIRS improves support to theater Commander in Chiefs
(CINC's), U.S. deployed forces, and allies, by providing better data quality and timliness in four mission areas: Missile Warning, Missile Defense, Technical Intelligence, and Battlespace Characterization.
The Israeli IAI/Arrow was, from its very beginning, conceived and engineered to become a unique anti-ballistic missile system. It was designed in the aftermath of the 1990-1 Gulf War, and so was able to incorporate the lessons learned from the Patriot's failure.
The heart of the Arrow's envelope is its ability to intercept Al-Hussein type, or
Scud-C missiles within a range of between 550 and 650 kilometers and the IAI/ Elta Green Pine Radar's 500km range is a significant improvement over the Patriot system, allowing for improved data collection tracking incoming missile flight path calculation with several more minutes to prepare for intercept.
Additionally, the Arrow was designed to overcome the problem of Scuds disintegrating by aiming to intercept them earlier in their flight before they begin breaking apart.
But what seems still a problem for the Arrow, however, is the threat from the Iranian Shahab-3, a missile that travels three to four times faster than the Scud.
Another problem for BMD in general, is to overcome potential countermeasures, such as missiles using cooling off warheads, electronic radar jamming, decoys and rapidly maneuvring warheads after re-entry.
While as of today there is no evidence that any of the 'rogue' countries has employed these countermeasures, Iran, North Korea, and Syria are suspected of developing a fragmentation or cluster warhead, which would give single missiles the possibility of overwhelming the present BMD capabilities.
A solution could present Boost Phase Intercept (BPI) , or its derivatives.
The Israel Boost Intercept System (IBIS) and Missile Optimised Anti-Ballistic (MOAB) system is an active defence system capable of autonomously detecting and intercepting ballistic missiles in the boost phase. It was initiated in the late nineties, but is still on hold due to lack of funding.
Although technically regarded feasible, the system is based on four elements: high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV); small, lightweight agile interceptor missiles (kill vehicles); passive electro-optical sensors; and communications links.
The Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Harpy drone, currently designed for air defence suppression, is based on UAV technologies that could mature in modified form for BPI systems. The same would apply to the emerging technologies now gaining momentum in developing unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). To enhance the long-endurance loitering, mid-air refuelling from other aerial vehicles could also become feasible.
However there are identified shortcomings. Should a hostile nation prepare to simultaneously fire large missile salvoes from mobile launch platforms this could saturate any BPI attack.
Aware of these limitations, Israel's defence establishment has recently embarked upon a new anti-missile concept that envisages a new method of attacking and destroying the missile launchers (rather than the missile) once launched. This is a key difference, and a rather ambitious project that could have substantial benefits if successfully implemented. Designated 'Before Launch Phase Intercept' (BLPI), the system would require an advanced combination of on-location intelligence by satellite, air surveillance and possibly ground observation by special forces to detect, identify, warn and then point the aerial platform UAV to launch its kinetic kill vehicles (KKV) at the target - the missile launcher Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL). Further developments in space satellites and advanced air-to-air missiles could present interesting solutions in this field.


  • Iran has, already, constructed 15
    nuclear warheads--as of December 15th, 2005.

    There WILL bean underground test of
    a low-yield 5-kiloton-yield nuclear
    device by March 31st, 2006, near
    Hamadan in Iran.

    By July 1st, 2006, there will 25 or more Iranian Shahab-3 missiles
    based in Iran's western ZAGROS
    mountain range.

    Israel MUST act within 75 days, with a massive airstrike on Iran's Nuclear, missile, and silo launching complexes.

    By nick, at 4:10 AM  

  • Irrespective of what the Israilis do,Iran is there to produce and improve its missiles and the system.Either live with it or else be stupid enough to prempt a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.All the best.

    By Anonymous, at 3:29 PM  

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