Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Iran Refining Missile Capabilities: Pentagon

An Iranian Shahab 3 ballistic missile, shown on display during a 2007 military parade in Tehran. Iran is still bolstering the accuracy of its ballistic missiles as well as their ability to inflict damage, according to a June report by the U.S. Defense Department (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian). An Iranian Shahab 3 ballistic missile, shown on display during a 2007 military parade in Tehran. Iran is still bolstering the accuracy of its ballistic missiles as well as their ability to inflict damage, according to a June report by the U.S. Defense Department (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian).

The United States believes Iran is still bolstering the capacity of its ballistic missiles to wreak damage and hit objects with precision, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday (see GSN, July 3).

“Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems by improving accuracy and developing new submunition payloads” to spread damaging force across a larger space than standard explosive charges, the Defense Department said in a June 29 analysis provided last week to four legislative panels and acquired by Bloomberg.

The document warns that Iranian preparation of personnel in ballistic missile operations “continues throughout the country,” and the construction of “new ships and submarines” is also under way.

If Tehran receives “sufficient foreign assistance," it "may be technically capable of flight-testing” an ICBM before 2016, the Pentagon said in affirming a prior U.S. determination.

The document, endorsed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, was provided to lawmakers in line with a requirement established in fiscal 2010 for yearly public and confidential analyses of Iranian armed forces capabilities. Iranian capacities to contain Western power are among subjects explored in the public assessment.

“There was a theme that Iran is improving the accuracy and lethality of its missiles,” Congressional Research Service Iran expert Kenneth Katzman said.

“U.S. government reports have previously always downplayed the accuracy and effectiveness of Iran’s missile forces,” he added. “The report seemed pretty sober and respectful of Iran’s capabilities, crediting Iran with improving survivability."

The Defense Department warned that the Persian Gulf power “would present a formidable force while defending Iranian territory.” Katzman described the language as an apparent “signal to advocates of military action against Iran, suggesting any action on Iranian soil will carry risk.”

Israel and the United States have repeatedly hinted at the possibility of an armed offensive against Iranian atomic capabilities relevant to nuclear-bomb development. Tehran insists its atomic ambitions are purely nonmilitary in nature (see related GSN story, today).

“We assess with high confidence” that Iran in the past three decades “has methodically cultivated a network of sponsored terrorist surrogates capable of targeting U.S. and Israeli interests,” the Pentagon document adds. “We suspect this activity continues.”

Iranian preparations continue on ballistic missiles suited to strike potential hostile targets, including Israeli and Eastern European sites, the paper's authors wrote. Related efforts involve a longer-distance Shahab 3 ballistic missile and a delivery vehicle capable of traveling 1,240 miles, they said.

Center for Strategic and International Studies specialist Anthony Cordesman said the assessment seems to verify an Iranian intermediate-range, solid-fuel delivery system's recent entry into service, as well as upgrades to the Shahab 3 missile's submunitions and precision capabilities.

The Defense Department said that in a move comparable to efforts by China, Tehran is “developing and claims to have deployed short-range ballistic missiles with seekers that enable the missile to identify and maneuver toward ships during flight" (see GSN, March 19).

“This technology also may be capable of striking land-based targets,” the Pentagon study adds (Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg, July 10).

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.

NTI Analysis

  • 3D Missile Model Collection

    Dec. 3, 2014

    The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies has created a series of 3D models of ballistic and cruise missiles for the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

  • North Korean Ballistic Missile Models

    July 30, 2014

    This page contains interactive 3D missile models for North Korea. Users can drag the model by pressing and holding their mouse’s scroll wheel. They can zoom in and out on the model by rolling their scroll wheel up and down, and can orbit the model by clicking and dragging their left mouse button.

Country Profile

Flag of Iran

Iran

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

Learn More →