The Ballistic Missile Capacity of Iran
The following is just an “outloud” thought process and will be more neatly formulated at a later date (note, not all Iranian missiles are mentioned) ;
The statements of bluster seen on the Russian front against the ballistic missile defense programs prepared for Eastern Europe by the United States and its partners addresses the serious misinterpretation of Russian views of outside military activity in relation to its nation’s security. It also completely misses the fundamental reason why such missile defense programs are currently being pursued by American and European security apparatuses; not to counter the Russian Federation, but rather the Islamic Republic of Iran and its domestic programs related to ballistic missile development.
Regarding the Iranian Defense program there are five major areas of investment the regime heavily utilizes;
- Precision-Strike Munitions
- Naval Anti-Ship Weapons Development
- Ballistic Missile Development
- Development of a Space Program
- Military Nuclear Development
In addition, studying the design and current transactions/purchases of these weapons (something the Iranian regime attempts to hide in their export filings), makes the inevitable conclusion that much of the military technology they utilize and develop is from foreign sources and not a pure Iranian creation. The major players that cooperatively work to help develop and trade defensive as well as offensive weapons to the Iranian regime are the following;
There are other countries that assist in the overall developmental process of Iranian defense technologies however, as mentioned these are the major players within the industry. For the purpose of this posting, I will restrict the rest of the analysis and information to ballistic missiles, however I want to reiterate that most of the weapons currently being pursued and developed by the Iranian regime are defensive in nature to counter an invasion to their territory, however, within the recent years there has been considerable activity related to military technology of an extreme offensive nature. Iran has relentlessly pursued defensive technology in order to achieve comfortable maneuvering ability to pursue (over the long term) offensive weapons that threaten the security of its distant neighbors such as Turkey, Central Europe and Eastern Europe, even the United States.
Iranian Ballistic Missiles:
The Iranian military apparatus has the current capacity to use the following missile types:
- Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs)
- Heavy Tactical Rockets
- Continental-Range Ballistic Missiles (CRBMs)
The defensive ballistic missiles are the heavy tactical and SRBMs, while the CRBMs are the current items that pose a serious offensive threat to that of Central and Easter Europe as well as Russia and China, however due to their highly cooperative nature toward the Iranain missile program as well as Iran’s dependency upon their friendship to further their missile technology, the threat is most likely targeted toward the United States and its allies within the European region.
According to the Arms Control Association,
- Ballistic Missiles: Iran is the only country not in possession of nuclear weapons to have produced or flight-tested ballistic missiles with ranges exceeding 1,000 kilometers. The Iranian missile program is largely based on North Korean and Russian designs and has benefited from Chinese technical assistance. Iran has one of the largest deployed ballistic missile forces in the Middle East, with some missiles capable of covering ranges up to 2,000 kilometers.
Iran’s most sophisticated operational ballistic missile is the liquid-fueled Shahab-3, which has a range of about 1,300 kilometers. Iran has made progress in developing and testing solid fueled missile technologies, which could significantly increase the mobility of Iran’s missile force. Since November of 2008, Iran has conducted a number of test-launches of a two-stage solid fuel-propelled missile, the Sajjil-2, which has a reported range of about 2,000 kilometers. Iran has also developed a two stage, liquid-fueled, space launch vehicle, the Safir and placed a small satellite in orbit using this system Feb. 2, 2009.
The Iranian regime has given the following missiles to the militant Lebanese group, Hezbollah (and were used against Israel in 2006);
The Fajer 3/5 are small tactical rockets that evade radar and strike troop concentration. These rockets are used predominantly to counter invading forces and are purely defensive in nature given their overall function and capacity. The Zalzal are unguided rockets and therefore their accuracy is rather limited as a result. In the recent term Iran has pursued the development of a Zalzal 2 rocket that is a guided missile and capable of being more accurate toward a specific grouping of personnel and has the overall range of 200 km. Another guided tactical rocket is the Fatah 110 and is of the same military nature as the Zalzal 1 and 2, defensive. These weapons have been rather successful and therefore pose a serious risk if the Iranian regime decides to increase its export of these missiles to what it deems, “friendly” nations. In fact, there has been recent announcement from Tehran that it plans to do just this, however Iranian promotion of ballistic missile proliferation has been understood and recognized for quite some time and is merely a public relations ploy to undermine the Western powers (Iran heavily utilizes psychological warfare techniques).
Continental-Range Ballistic Missiles:
The most heavily utilized and produced Iranian CRBM is the Shahab 2 and Shahab-3, and in recent developments the Shahab-3ER, an upgraded version of the Shahab-3. In addition to the Shahab-3, a prototype based on the North Korean No Dong and Huasong S missiles (to which North Korea also sold Iran the missile production line), the Iranian regime has come into possession (that is clearly not publicly understood as to how) of 18 BM25 land-mobile CRBMs based off the SSN6 Soviet design. The Shahab-3 has a range of 1,300 km (Turkey and Israel) while the new Shahab-3ER has an increased range by 700 km which will allow Iran to reach Central and Eastern Europe. These CRBMs are highly capable of reaching the allies of the United States and so therefore the United States and its European counterparts have responded in kind to counter the emerging Iranian ballistic missile threat.
According to the Arms Control Association:
Cruise Missiles: Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko confirmed in 2005 that Iran illegally procured six Kh-55 cruise missiles from Ukraine four years earlier. The Kh-55 is an air-launched nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. Iran also has acquired a variety of Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles.
An interesting thing to note is that Western officials are perplexed as to how Iran was able to smuggle these designs and missiles outside Ukraine and into Iran without detection and therefore has resulted in heightened security concerns not just with Iran but also with Russia as well.
The ballistic missile development of the Iranian regime is highly developed, and likely the most developed of any third world country pursuing ballistic missiles of any kind. What causes more concern for the United States and its allies is the disregard for global security concerns by Russia, North Korea and China who continue to supply Iran with technology and information to help advance the Iranian ballistic missile program, despite their “pursuit” of Western led UN-efforts to halt Iranian activities, most importantly with their nuclear development program.
As a result of the advanced nature of the Iranian ballistic missile program, the United States and its European counterparts have decided to pursue a strategy that would help alleviate the direct threat of their region by Iranian activity. The latest development within this process has been the revised ballistic missile defense system proposed by the Obama administration, called the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) plan. Iran poses a serious rising threat and has continued to defy cooperative measures to ensure the security of the international community. What’s more, its advanced ballistic missile program, capable of delivering missiles 2,000 km from its borders is worrisome due to the advanced and secretive nature of its nuclear weapons program that has been propelled by Sino-Russian intelligence and assistance.
So when you hear Russia claim the PAA is a direct threat to Russian security, its pure bluster, its objective is to take away attention from the true nature and activity of the ballistic missile threat of Europe and the United States stemming from the military activity within the Islamic Republic of Iran.