Iran continues to develop its ballistic missile capability, despite a number of setbacks in recent flight tests. Since 2000, Iran has focused its efforts on the Shahab 3 medium-range missile, which is capable of reaching Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. forces in the Middle East. Although several tests of the Shahab 3 appear to have failed, a ceremony was held on July 20, 2003 marking the distribution of the missile to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The Central Intelligence Agency now considers Iran’s missile arsenal to include “some” Shahab 3 missiles. The fate of the Shahab 4 missile, originally planned as a follow-on version of the Shahab 3 and able to attain parts of Eastern Europe, is unclear.
Iran’s missile program continues to depend on imports from China, North Korea and Russia, all of which have sold either missile equipment, technology, or expertise. These imports have helped Iran towards self-sufficiency in missile production.
Iranian officials have said that their country’s missiles are meant only for defense and deterrence, but the U.S. government views Iran’s missiles as an offensive threat. Most U.S. intelligence agencies predict that the United States will “most likely” face a ballistic missile threat from Iran by 2015. And in March 2002, Vice Admiral Thomas Wilson, Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that Iran’s missiles are intended “to deter the U.S. and to intimidate Iran’s neighbors.”
Short-range ballistic missiles (up to 1,000 km)
Iran has an arsenal of short-range, liquid-fueled missiles including the SCUD B and SCUD C. Iran is now able to produce SCUD-type missiles on its own, thanks to assistance provided by North Korea. The Aerospace Industries Organization, a subsidiary of Iran’s Ministry of Defense, claims to support the manufacturing process by engaging in “SCUD missile restoration,” according to its web site.
Iran’s short-range missile inventory also includes solid-fueled missiles, such as the Chinese-made CSS-8 (also called the Tondar-69) and the Fateh 110. Iran claims to have successfully flight tested the Fateh 110 in September 2002. It is reportedly a single-stage missile with at least a 200 km range. Iran’s Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics claims that Iran produced the missile domestically. In addition, Mr. Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the head of Iran’s Expediency Council, has asserted that Iran produced the solid fuel propellant for the missile. The Aerospace Industries Organization claims to be capable of producing “many types of liquid and solid propellant.” According to an Iranian media report, the Aerospace Industries Organization opened a plant to mass produce the Fateh 110 in mid-September 2002, after completing a successful test flight.
Medium-range ballistic missiles (1,000-3,000 km)
Iran has devoted most of its energy recently to the Shahab 3, a liquid-fueled, road mobile, ballistic missile similar to North Korea’s No Dong missile, components of which Iran imported. According to Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization, the Shahab 3 is designed to carry a 1,200 kg payload 1,300 km; however, another report estimates the missile’s payload at around 750 kg. Iran has built and publicly displayed prototypes of the missile.
Iran has conducted at least six test flights of the Shahab 3. The first was in July, 1998. During that test, the missile reportedly exploded in mid-air during the latter portion of its flight, leading U.S. officials to question whether the test was a failure or the explosion was intentional. A second test took place in July 2000, which Iran’s state media called a success. In September 2000, Iran conducted a third test of the Shahab 3, but the missile reportedly exploded shortly after launch. In May 2002, Iran conducted another test, which it claimed was successful and which Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) also called successful. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said that the test enhanced the Shahab 3’s “power and accuracy.” Another test reportedly occurred only two months later, in July 2002, and was unsuccessful. Despite mixed success during test flights, on July 7 2003, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman claimed that Iran had completed a “final test” of the Shahab 3 “a few weeks ago.” According to a New York Times report, the spokesman described the test flight as “the final test before delivering the missile to the armed forces.”
The status of the liquid-fueled Shahab 4, which appears to be based on Russia’s SS 4 “Sandal” missile, remains unclear. The SS 4 is a large, single-stage missile with a range of approximately 1,800-2,000 km. In 1999, Iran’s defense minister announced plans to develop the missile as a more capable successor to the Shahab 3. However, he later characterized it as only a space-launch vehicle. In November 2003, Iran’s defense ministry was quoted as saying that Iran did not have any program “to build a Shahab 4 missile.”
Despite the November announcement, the United States remains skeptical of Iran’s assertion that it will not develop the Shahab 4. According to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, Iran could choose to develop space launch vehicles as a technical base for intermediate and intercontinental-range missiles, “without risking the potential political and economic costs of a long-range missile test.”
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a consortium of Iranian opposition groups, claims that Iran has already successfully tested the Shahab 4. This would have occurred in May and August 2002 at a missile firing range south of Semnan. According to the NCRI, Iran assembles the Shahab 4 at the Hemat Industrial complex, a plant that belongs to the Revolutionary Guard Corps and that is located on the Damavand Tehran Highway. The NCRI asserts that the missile has a range of up to 2,000 km and can carry a 1,500 kg warhead. Foreign assistance, previously from China and Russia and most recently from North Korea, has helped the Iranian regime move forward with the Shahab 4, according to the NCRI.
Missile production plants
Although the Iranian government has not identified specific missile production plants or sites, it has publicly acknowledged the existence of such facilities. In September 2002, an Iranian news organization reported on a public ceremony inaugurating three facilities intended to produce Fateh 110 missiles, marine cruise missiles, and anti-aircraft cannons. The Aerospace Industries Organization reportedly manages these facilities.
The NCRI claims that Iran has a number missile production plants, run by two organizations with strong ties to the Iranian government: the Aerospace Industries Organization and the Mechanical Industries Complex, which is related to the Defense Ministry’s Defense Industries Organization. Germany has designated the Aerospace Industries Organization as a risky end-user and has included the organization on its Early Warning List to German exporting companies. The NCRI claims that the Aerospace Industries Organization manages a number of factories and research centers, including: the Missile Center of Saltanat-Abad, the Vanak Missile Center, the Parchin Missile Industries factories, the Baqeri base factories Numbers 1-3, the Tabriz Bakeri base factory, the Bakeri Missile Industries factory, the Hemmat Missile Industries factory, the Bagh Shian (Almehdi) Missile Industries, the Shah-Abadi Industrial Complex, the Khajir Complex, the Baqerololum Missile Research Center, the Mostafa Khomeini base factory, and the Quadiri Base factory.
China, North Korea, and some former Soviet Republics, including Russia, have continued to send missile equipment, technology and expertise to Iran, despite U.S. efforts to halt such exports. According to the C.I.A., this foreign assistance has “helped Iran move towards its goal of becoming self-sufficient in the production of ballistic missiles.”
In recent years, China has pledged to improve its proliferation posture, notably by committing not to assist any country in the development of a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon and by adopting a set of export control laws. Nevertheless, Chinese entities continue to work actively with Iran on missile-related projects; this cooperation extended into the first half of 2003.
In June 2003, the State Department sanctioned the China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) and four other Chinese companies for engaging in proliferation activities with Iran. NORINCO was previously sanctioned by the State Department in May 2003 for missile proliferation activities reportedly with Iran. According to a media report, NORINCO had sold missile technology to Iran’s Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group, the agency charged with developing and producing Iran’s missiles, sometime in 2002.
A number of other Chinese firms engaged in missile-related work have also been sanctioned for proliferation activities with Iran, including: the Taian Foreign Trade General Corporation, in June 2003; the China Shipbuilding Trading Company, in May and July 2002; and the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC), in June and July 2003 and in May 2002. CPMIEC markets “M-family” missiles, liquid and solid rocket motors and precision machinery, as well as a variety of tactical missiles.
According to the C.I.A., North Korea continues to play a central role in Iran’s ballistic missile efforts, by providing Iran with missile-related equipment, technology and expertise. The State Department has repeatedly sanctioned the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, North Korea’s main missile exporter, for engaging in proliferation activities. Since 2000, Changgwang has been sanctioned four times for proliferation activities with Iran. Changgwang was also reportedly the source of 12 Nodong missile engines that arrived in Iran from North Korea on November 21, 1999. These engines are believed to be for use in Iran’s Shahab medium-range missiles.
Russia has been another supplier of missile-related goods and technical expertise to Iran. Despite Russia’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime since 1995, the C.I.A. reports that Russian entities continue to help Iran develop new missiles and achieve self-sufficiency in missile production. In particular, Russian entities have helped accelerate the development of the Shahab 3 missile.
Notwithstanding these conclusions, the United States has taken little action against suspect Russian entities since 1999. In April 2000, State Department spokesman James Rubin announced that the Russian government had investigated Yuri Savel’ev, the rector of Baltic State Technical University (BSTU). According to the State Department, Savel’ev was believed to have been involved in the transfer of sensitive missile technology to Iran; the investigation reportedly led to Savel’ev’s suspension. Rubin also announced plans for a U.S. ban on assistance to and procurement from Savel’ev, while maintaining earlier sanctions imposed on BSTU. BSTU was sanctioned by the State Department in July 1998, along with Europalace 2000, Glavkosmos, Grafit, INOR Scientific Center, MOSO Company and Polyus Scientific Production Association, for engaging in “proliferation activities related to Iran’s missile programs.”
In May 2003, the State Department sanctioned three Moldovan entities for engaging in missile technology proliferation: Cuanta S.A., Computer and Communicatti SRL, and Mikhail Pavlovich Vladov, a Moldovan individual. On the same day, an Iranian company, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), was also sanctioned for engaging in missile proliferation activities. During a State Department press briefing on May 29, spokesman Richard Boucher said that sanctions had been imposed on the three Moldovan entities for their involvement “in the transfer of equipment and technology … that contributed to … Category I missile programs in Iran.” In addition, Boucher specifically linked the Moldovan and Iranian entities, saying the four were involved in “the transfer of materials from Moldova to Iran.” The Moldovan government denied the U.S. allegation against Cuanta, claiming that the state-owned company had been “out of operation for three years.” The State Department had previously imposed sanctions on Cuanta SA and Mikhail Pavlovich under the Iran Nonproliferation Act in May 2002.
Iran’s Ballistic Missiles (2004)
I. Nuclear Capable
|Scud B (Shahab 1)||up to 300 km||770-860 kg||liquid||Libya; North Korea||about 1 km||deployed|
|Scud C (Shahab 2)||about 500 km||about 700 kg||liquid||North Korea||deployed|
|Shahab 3||1,300 km||about 750 kg||liquid||Russia; North Korea||about 3 km||tested; limited number may be deployed|
|Shahab 4||between 1,800 and 2,000 km||about 1,000 kg||liquid||based on Russian SS 4 "Sandal"||uncertain|
|CSS 8 (Tondar 69)||about 150 km||about190 kg||solid||China||deployed|
|Fateh 110||about 200 km||solid||tested|