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Iran Could Put U.S. in Missile Range by 2015, Air Force Report Warns

(Jun. 10) -Iran displays its Shahab missiles in 2008. With outside help, the Middle Eastern state by 2015 could acquire missiles capable of hitting the United States, a new U.S. Air Force report says (Atta Kenare/Getty Images). (Jun. 10) -Iran displays its Shahab missiles in 2008. With outside help, the Middle Eastern state by 2015 could acquire missiles capable of hitting the United States, a new U.S. Air Force report says (Atta Kenare/Getty Images).

With support from outside sources, Iran within six years could produce an ICBM capable of hitting the United States, the U.S. Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center said in a new report made public yesterday by the Federation of American Scientists (see GSN, May 22).

"Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and, with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015," the report says.

In the preceding paragraph, the report warns that North Korea's Taepodong 2 missile could also be developed as an ICBM could put the United States in range and warns that the weapon "could be exported to other countries in the future" (see GSN, June 3).

China, deemed to have "the most active and diverse ballistic missile program in the world," has begun deploying its newer DF-31 and DF-31A ICBMs, the report states. The report states that "less than 15" of the missiles have been fielded, an increase from the Defense Department's March estimate, based on 2008 data, that "less than 10" of the weapons had been deployed (see GSN, March 26).

Neither of China's two submarine-launched ballistic missiles have entered operation, the report states, indicating that the country has not completed work on its new JL-2 missile or finished modernizing its Xia ballistic missile submarine, which is designed to carry the older JL-1 missile.

Although the report describes all of China's current ballistic missiles as single-warhead vehicles, it asserts that Beijing could modify some of the weapons to carry multiple warheads and would "probably" develop new ICBMs with multiple-warhead capabilities. The U.S. intelligence community has long maintained that the development of U.S. missile defenses could prompt Beijing to pursue multiple-warhead offensive capabilities, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

The number of Chinese ICBMs capable of reaching the United States could increase to "well over 100 in the next 15 years," the report states, an assertion similar to some made in previous U.S. reports. Still, the number of Chinese ICBMs "primarily targeted against the United States" is smaller than the number of weapons merely capable of reaching the country, the FAS analysis notes. In addition, the time line of China's missile progression has "slipped" since 2001, when the CIA estimated that China would have between 75 and 100 ICBMs trained primarily on U.S. targets by 2015, the analysis says.

Russia, meanwhile, "will probably retain the largest ICBM force outside the United States,” the Air Force report states, adding that “most of these [Russian] missiles are maintained on alert, capable of being launched within minutes of receiving a launch order.” The assessment says that Russia possesses roughly 2,000 nuclear warheads topping ICBMs, which likely encompasses submarine-launched ballistic missiles, according to the science organization.

The report classifies Russia's multiple-warhead RS-24 ICBM as a modification of an earlier missile; the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty bans adding warheads to missiles declared under the pact (see GSN, Dec. 18, 2008).

The report also discounts a previous NASIC estimate that Russia's submarine-launched Sineva ballistic missiles could carry up to 10 warheads each; the new document lowers the estimated capacity to four warheads.

India began to field its Agni 1 and Agni 2 ballistic missiles only recently and has so far deployed "fewer than 25" mobile launchers, the report states, countering independent Indian reports that the weapons were already deployed.

India is developing two new short-range SLBMs, dubbed Dhanush and Sagarika, the report asserts, suggesting that Sagarika would enter operation after next year.

The U.S. report makes no reference to an Indian nuclear-capable cruise missile despite reports that New Delhi is pursuing such a weapon.

Pakistan possesses fewer than 50 launchers for its mobile Ghaznavi and Shaheen ! short-range ballistic missiles, and the country has not yet commissioned its longer-range Shaheen 2 missile, the Air Force report says (Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists, June 9).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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This article provides an overview of Iran's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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