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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Uzi Rubin: The Global Reach of Iran's Ballistic Missiles

Uzi Rubin: The Global Reach of Iran's Ballistic Missiles
Institute for National Security Studies
The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), incorporating the Jaffee
Center for Strategic Studies, was founded in 2006.

Tel Aviv University
Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv 69978
November 2006
Tel. 03-6409926
Fax. 03-6422404

Executive Summary

While the international community is focused on Iran's potential
nuclearization, it ought likewise to take stock of the developments in
Iran's missile technology. Iran's missiles are an indispensable complement
to its nuclear ambitions and merit as much scrutiny as its nuclear program.

This study describes and interprets the Iranian missile program within the
context of Iran's threat perception, armament policies, and overall
ambitions. Charting the origins of Iran's missile program and its
development, the study presents a clear picture of where Iran's missile
capability stands today and where it is likely headed. Iran's space program
is a symbiotic adjunct to the missile program, and is reviewed here as well.

Among the main conclusions of this study:

. Iran's missile and space programs are progressing with singular urgency:
no other country in the world, including established industrialized powers,
comes close to Iran in the number and variety of ballistic missiles in
development or already deployed.

. The Iranians are covering almost all technological bases: ordinary liquid
propulsion, storable liquid propulsion, and solid propulsion. Along with
ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, Iran seems poised to add a
cruise missile component to its strategic forces.

. Iran's development of a space launch vehicle may well be a harbinger of an

. The range of Iran's missiles has grown steadily decade by decade, from a
purely local range to an extended range that is likely to dominate the
entire European continent by the end of the decade.

. Heralding the missile program with a great deal of transparency, Iran has
exploited it as a psychological tool, adding it to its force of "deterrence

. There is some doubt as to the quality and precision of the more advanced
missiles, with Iran's claims likely exceeding the missiles' actual

. Nonetheless, Iran's aspirations should be taken seriously, and given the
various components of its missile program, it should be assumed that the
missiles are approaching a global range.


Iran's missile and space programs are progressing with singular urgency. No
other country in the world, including established industrialized powers,
comes close to Iran in the number and variety of ballistic missiles in
development or already deployed. The Iranians are covering almost all
technological bases, from ordinary liquid propulsion to storable liquid
propulsion to solid propulsion. Side by side with investing in ballistic
missiles and space launch vehicles, they seem poised to add a cruise missile
component to their strategic forces. The range of their missiles is growing
steadily decade by decade: from the 600 km or so of the late 1980s to 1300
km in the early 1990s, to 2000 km in the early 2000s all the way to
2500-3500 km today. From purely local reach, their missiles' range grew to
dominate the entire Middle East as well as some portions of Europe. At this
rate, Iranian missiles will dominate the entire continent of Europe by the
end of this decade. Once they perfect their workhorse SLV, their reach will
become truly global.

While the missile forces are built up, Iran is using whatever is already
available to good psychological purpose. Not only are its missiles paraded
in public on a yearly basis; they are frequently alluded to by Iranian
officials in heralding the military prowess of the regime. The transparency
of the Shahab 3 missile program was most impressive. Contrary to the other
three radical regimes in the region who have or have had their own missile
programs - Libya, Syria, and Saddam's Iraq - the Iranians announced their
missile tests, at least the successful ones, and released impressive
photographic material to the media.

Only recently have the Iranians retreated somewhat from the policy of
transparency. Until then, the amount of material released and the number and
variety of statements was abundant, though there at times conflicting
reports lent the programan air of secrecy cloaked behind a veil of

Furthermore, the record is not unmixed. The deluge of images and statements
and the large number of programs have yielded an inconsistent picture. To
date the Iranians have paraded at least three variants of the Shahab 3
missiles, transported by at least four different variants of the basic
transporter-launcher. This does not indicate a truly focused effort. An
average flight test rate of about one per year forall three variantsis not
especially rigorous, and many of those tests apparently ended in some kind
of failure. The acquisition from abroad of a new missile that has never been
tested before may be indicative of some urgency to correct a perceived
deficiency,perhaps some skepticism about the Shahab 3 design. The eight-year
old space program resulted to date in one single launch of a foreign-made
satellite by a foreign SLV. All the indications are that the missile and
space programs have suffered from deficiencies in leadership and
resources.Significantly,thereis noIranian Von Braun and no Iranian Sergey
Korolev behind the overall effort. The disparate programs are making
headway, but in a somewhat chaotic manner.

Yet Iran's missile and space programs are no paper tigers. They are
obviously the keystones of an overarching defense policy, the objective of
which is first and foremost to deter the US and its allies from blocking
Iran's path towards regional hegemony. However, today's weapons of
deterrence are apt to become tomorrow's weapons of dominance.

If and when Iran perfects its own nuclear weapons, by then it will have
several reliable ballistic and cruise missiles available as means of

Nuclear Iran's missiles will project the power of its radical,
uncompromisingly fundamentalist mastery over Israel and other US allies in
the Middle East, over the entire continent of Europe, and over the US
homeland itself.

It is incumbent for the intended targets to stand up in defense of liberal
democracy against this looming threat.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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