Archive for the 'ballistic missiles' Tag
Every now and then I get a chance to reach escape velocity from my day job and do something really fun or different. Recently that entailed presenting a BMD overview to a couple of classes that were part of the Naval War College’s Non-Resident Seminar program (of which YHS is a graduate). And like any good presenter these days, one needs a brief – so, ecce:
Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.
At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.
As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.
During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.
The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.
Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.
Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.
FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.
Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.
This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2). The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol. Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.
A USNI Article by Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret) is currently being linked by the Drudge Report.
President Barack Obama was outmaneuvered by the Russians and should have abandoned the New START negotiations instead of seeking a political victory, says former nuclear plans monitor Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret).
“The Obama administration is continuing a dated policy in which we cannot even unilaterally reduce our own inventory of weapons and delivery systems without being on parity with the Russians,” Miller told the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md. “We could give up plenty of deployed delivery systems and not adversely affect our national security one bit, but New START prohibits such action – so we are now stuck with some outmoded and useless elements in our nuke force.” – Read the rest at ‘Obama was outmaneuvered by Russians on START’
For me it makes no sense to complete such an agreement with the Russians when they are working overtime to enable other bad actors around the world, such as the Iranians and just recently Venezuela. Back in 2008 I wrote an article noting a number of points why it was OK to stop paying off Russia in regards to it’s nuclear weapons given that the payback was pretty pitiful. These points are still relevant today:
1. At the moment, those most likely to steal a nuclear weapon from Russia are probably the same groups who are most likely to detonate a nuke inside Russia. Remember that Russia has a terrorist problem in Chechnya and they have struck inside Russia proper. Careless accountability puts Moscow at as much if not more risk for a nuclear attack than any Western country. Also, there is much less risk of being caught getting a nuke to Moscow than trying to move it halfway across the planet to get it to US soil. As a bonus, international stupidity has awarded Russia the Olympics games. So in addition to having Moscow as a target, terrorists might just as well target Sochi Olympics with the goal of wiping the city (and everyone in it) from the map.
2. Russian Nuclear scientists. Paying this money provides many of these scientists with support, but probably keeps them either idle or doing busy work that they have no interest in. A US Government study had already suggested that work from some of these scientists directly benefited the Iranian nuclear program. (See: US Assistance to Russia Funding Iranian Nukes) With all the calls around the globe for new nuclear plants, how about letting these nuclear experts move abroad and help the world increase its nuclear power generating capacity. If it takes aid money to facility the shift, then that is probably money much better spent than it is now.
3. Speaking of the Iranians, while the US is paying to secure existing Russian nukes, the money does nothing to prevent Russia from teaching the Iranians to build their own. This has included not only the supply of scientists, but also equipment, machinery and raw nuclear material. So while they are not passing whole nukes out the door, they are essentially sneaking out nukes in pieces.
Iran’s first nuclear plant in the southern city of Bushehr, which is being constructed in cooperation with Russia, is expected to become operational later on in 2008.
In December 2007, Russia began delivering 82 tons of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr plant, under the supervision and subject to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The United States, Israel and their European allies allege that the enriched uranium provided by the Russians could be used to produce weapons-grade substances, and accuse Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of pursuing a military nuclear program. – Hurriyet
Putin and Ahmadinejad – Each the other’s most Useful Idiot
4. Russia has already used nuclear material in an attack, littering Europe with radioactive material in the process, exposing thousands of travelers to the nuclear radiation in the process.
Vladimir Putin should be known throughout the world as “Putin the Poisoner.” His signature act — the action that defined Putin’s character for all the world to see — was the radioactive poisoning of KGB turncoat Alexander Litvinenko in London, using polonium-210. The kicker is that you can’t just buy polonium-210 at your local chemical supply store. You can only get it if you have a nuclear weapons industry, because there you need it to start a nuclear chain reaction. It’s a super-tricky substance to control. Putin’s assassins left their traces all over London. Chemically, Po-210 is 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. But the Russians have always favored overkill. – American Thinker
5. Russia and the former Soviet States are still littered with unsecured nuclear material:
Another DOE effort that has been upended by the local violence is the tracking of abandoned radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) – thousands of highly radioactive strontium and caesium powered batteries that were placed throughout remote portions of the Soviet Union as navigational beacons and power sources.
These sources have fallen into decrepitude, and much of the paperwork on their whereabouts and conditions were lost with the Soviet Union’s fall. The RTG units are frequently dismantled for valuable scrap metal by scavengers. More troubling, the strontium and caesium sources also go missing.
The DOE-led effort to isolate, dismantle and dispose of these forgotten facilities “will, for the time being have to be shelved,” said a DOE source in a telephone interview. – Bellona
Georgian interior ministry officials maintain that much of the nuclear material they stop can be traced directly to Russian sites, largely in Siberia. But, complained on official in an interview with Bellona Web Tuesday, the Russians are satisfied to leave these clean up efforts to Georgia, and will rarely take responsibility for Russia nuclear material ending up in the hands of Georgian law enforcement.
“To say that we are intercepting materials that come from Russia, and have the Russian’s admit it, means that the Russian sites are not as secure as they want the world to believe,” said the Georgian interior ministry spokesman, who, citing the current violence requested anonymity. – Bellona
6. Russia itself is a threat to nuclear material stockpiles:
“Russia will say that they will secure these radioactive sources, but the truth is they are as liable to take them as any smuggles we have apprehended,” said the Georgian interior ministry official in an email interview on Monday. – Bellona
You can bet that material stolen by the Russians will not end up in any facility subject to US-paid security.
7. Finally, the money spent securing Russian nukes will do nothing to prevent Russia’s access to the weapons. As it is, there are two recent stories noting either Russian movement of nuclear weapons or their suggestion of re-deploying them.
LONDON- Russia is considering arming its Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads for the first time since the cold war, warned senior military sources late August 17.
The Sunday Times wrote that under the Russian plans, nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of the Baltic fleet based in Kaliningrad. – The Baltic Times
Russia has inserted into Georgian territory two SS-21 “Scarab” short-range missile launchers. The only possible use for these in a conflict of this type is for delivery of tactical nuclear weapons. They are Russia’s insurance policy, deterring those who would come to Georgia’s aid to prevent it being torn asunder by the Kremlin’s war machine. – Irish Times
Russia no longer maintains a ‘no-first-use’ policy, and is considering re-deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. – American Chronicle
As recently as July, the newspaper Izvestia floated the idea that Moscow would station nuclear weapons in Cuba if the U.S. went ahead with the deployment of an antiballistic missile radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland. Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, chief of Russia’s strategic missile command, has openly spoken about aiming nuclear-tipped missiles at those two countries. Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that if it were to join NATO, “Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory.” Not long before that, Mr. Putin cheerfully described a series of ballistic-missile flight tests as “pleasant and spectacular holiday fireworks.” – The Wall Street Journal
Then there is Russia’s threat to nuke Poland in response to Poland’s agreement to host American missile interceptors. Of course, they only agreed to host them in order to get their hands on some Patriot missile batteries all the better to shoot down Russian missiles and jets. Only Russia can get pissed off over military equipment that is useful only on the defender’s territory. Mainland Russia does not even border Poland. However, the Russian seaport of Kaliningrad, seized from the Germans at the end of WWII does border Poland. To make sure the Poles take the threat seriously, Russia is suspected of stockpiling many tactical nukes there. Those being weapons you toss into neighboring countries. So before you even think of listening to Putin bitching about the US ‘stirring things up’ by placing a couple defensive missiles in Europe (See: “Washington and Poland just moved the World closer to War”), consider that Putin has nukes already placed right in the center of Europe.
Russia has reportedly moved tactical nuclear weapons to a military base in Kaliningrad, an action that would contravene its apparent pledge to keep the Baltic region nuclear-free and could violate its 1991 commitment not to deploy tactical nuclear weapons. Russian officials have vehemently denied the allegations.
The move was first reported January 3 by The Washington Times, which cited unnamed intelligence sources and classified Defense Intelligence Agency reports, and stated that U.S. officials first became aware of the weapons transfers last June. Following initial press reports, U.S. news organizations reported senior U.S. officials as confirming that the Clinton administration believes Russia has moved tactical nuclear warheads during the past year to the isolated Russian region, which is located between Poland and Lithuania. – Arms Control Association, 2001
Of course the Russians promised not to do such a thing:
The presence of any stockpiled weapons in Kaliningrad would violate Russia’s apparent pledge to keep nuclear weapons out of the Baltics, and the more serious step of deploying tactical nuclear weapons would clearly violate its 1991 commitment. Russian officials have so far failed to clarify whether the Baltic outpost serves as a storage site for tactical nuclear weapons, although U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that Russia used Kaliningrad as a depot for tactical nuclear weapons that were removed from naval vessels in the early 1990s. – Arms Control Association, 2001
The Administration’s cancellation of the anti-missile system that was going to be deployed in Poland and the now-confirmed lie that the Administration swore that the cancellation had nothing to do with Russia’s objection to the system puts doubt in my mind that the US has the will needed to put the Russians in check. We certainly should have the motivation to try and limit the threat that is Russia. One way to do that is of course to have them account for their past nuclear sins. A good way to do that is to push the Russians to do a better job cleaning up after their own nuclear waste. As you can see from the extract examples above, it is an issue that they defer to our allies to handle. That is something that should change. The Russians should want to remove this waste from their environment. This is not the case because ‘the West’ is climbing over each other to do this for them.
Is this new START program going to stop the Russians from helping our enemies gain nuclear strike capability? I think not. My opinion however matters little. However, it is interesting to note the Vice Admiral’s comments on this matter fit with my own opinion. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for the actual results of this Treaty against what is being promised.
(UPDATE: Looks like the story is getting walked back a bit…the AP’s source, “A Western military official in Saudi Arabia” is being contradicted by Pentagon spokespersons–who say there was no launch of any kind.)
How, exactly, does one test a “submarine-launched ballistic missile” from Saudi territory?
“The United States test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads during a joint military exercise Wednesday with Saudi Arabia, a Western military official said.
The Trident missile launch was carried out in the kingdom, the official said, but he would not give a precise location. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.”
Was this missile fired from a land-sharkesque Sand Sub? Did we ship a missile over for a launch from a Saudi facility? Or fire it from a sub elsewhere?
I mean, while this may explain why some Tehran IP addresses have been, ah, oh, rather avid consumers of my home-blog, NextNavy.com, I really wonder what is going on here.
What an odd story….If this missile launched from the Saudi’s sandy seas, at a Saudi launch facility, then…I must ask: Do we really want to export this kind of strike platform? There?
We need to know more.
A lot more–Did America conduct an unprecedented Persian Gulf/Red Sea/Indian Ocean launch….for a missile defense test? Or is this the new face of Prompt Global Strike–a little project you can read more about in April’s USNI Proceedings)?
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(*) Estimated. H/T: Warisboring.com
Phil Ewing over at Navy Times makes an interesting catch:
Navy engineers in March began looking into how the fleet should prepare for an attack by one of the most feared and controversial weapons of the modern age: an electromagnetic pulse.
So, even though the U.S. is working to cut nuclear weapons, we’re also preparing to operate in a world where nuclear weapons have proliferated or are set to be employed in less conventional ways– in, oh, say, Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.
Under the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Force Electromagnetic Effects and Spectrum Management Office, the U.S. Navy EMP Program is reconstituting knowledge lost after the Cold War:
“We have eight scientists and engineers who are providing Navy leadership with information crucial to assessing the fleet’s posture with regard to EMP,” said Alex Solomonik, Navy EMP Program Manager. “Navy Warfare Center EMP experts – with over 80 years combined electromagnetic pulse experience – form an extremely powerful link to past lessons learned.”
The group advises Navy leadership about strategies and safety measures to mitigate EMP damage in the unlikely event a nuclear weapon detonates at an altitude in excess of 40 miles, generating a high altitude electromagnetic pulse.
“The consequences of failing to take appropriate precautions to protect fleet mission critical systems can ultimately prove catastrophic to the Navy’s mission,” said Blaise Corbett, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren EMP Assessment Group Leader.
So, to do my part in building awareness of this old “new” threat, here’s a primer from the latest CHIPS:
Electromagnetic pulse is a radiated electromagnetic field, typically generated and associated with a nuclear detonation. A nuclear device detonated at an altitude in excess of 40 miles generates High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), which is the focus of the U.S. Navy program. This high-altitude nuclear explosion creates high energy photons known as gamma rays. The photons collide with molecules in the upper atmosphere creating free electrons called Compton electrons, which then interact with the Earth’s geomagnetic field lines to create a HEMP.
HEMP can be characterized as a radio frequency emission with broad frequency content, high electrical field levels up to 100 kilovolts per meter, and high instantaneous power density levels that can exceed 20 megawatts per meter squared.
HEMP is composed of three components commonly referred to as E1, E2 and E3.
E1, often referred to as the prompt component, is characterized by short pulse duration and a fast rise time. The actual EMP experienced is a function of the weapon yield and design, burst height, latitude of the burst, and relative observer location from the burst point.
E2 is often compared to lightning in terms of duration and frequency content (frequencies contained in the signal), while E3 has the longest duration, lowest frequency content, and lowest field levels.
As such, E1 poses the greatest danger to individual electronic systems, while E3 poses the greatest threat to networked infrastructure, such as long line power and telephone networks. The focus of the military is primarily on electronic system impacts due to E1.
EMP is one of those hotly-debated threats. Skeptics are quite right to argue that, oh, an unfortunately timed coffee spill onto a critical keyboard poses an even greater (and more likely) hazard to naval operations.
But in a world where naval platforms are set to last for four or five decades…who knows who will have a nuclear weapon by then? Or, for that matter, how nuclear weaponry will be harnessed?
Two items of note for today’s summary — France may be seriously studying missile defense and Russia’s at it again (re. European Phase Adaptive Approach – PAA).
Parlez-vous la Défense de Missile Balistique ?
A recent 65-page study on BMD, written by three members of Parliament at a think tank linked to the National Assembly (“Defense et Strategie”) argues for France committing to building, or at least contributing to a BMD system to counter the growing threat from nations hostile to Europe (in general) and France (in particular). The authors, members of leading centrist parties, assert that the threat will grow over the next 15 years, especially from the likes of Iran, and (and this is a new argument) that a BMD is necessary to strengthen France’s nuclear deterrent. In doing so, they also acknowledge that the political will to move forward is lacking in France and Europe (surprise!) and is an attitude that they seek to change.
It is also perhaps worth noting that it was the Obama Administration’s decision to press with the PAA over the former GBI-centric system the Bush Administration had planned that pushed the authors into the study. The reason? Their view that an American-led system and architecture establishes American industry as a threat, or ‘double risk’ for Europe — double since the Europeans and NATO have yet to devise a comprehensive BMD policy in line with 21st Century threats and if one country equips itself with an American C2 system, it must, perforce, equip itself entirely with compatible US parts.” Note that the Japanese don’t seem to mind with the incorporation of Aegis BMD into their cruisers and establishing joint development for elements of the SM-3 system. The rub, of course, is as the report goes on to say, that the lack of a BMD system would leave European companies blocked from accessing certain export markets. Sort of like the ones cruise missiles like the EXOCET have been pitched to. That worked out well for all involved (cf. USS Stark).
Obligatory snark about export sales and French aspirations to industrial prominence aside, the study is significant in that it acts as both another venue voicing concern over Iran’s long-range missile progress (no one but the most ardent partisan would argue the French are sock puppets for the US, especially where maters of intelligence are concerned) and it may well be a bellwether signal that Europe proper may be moving off the dime in terms of serious consideration of ballistic missile defense on the Continent. One method suggested would be the formation of industrial partnerships to develop a European BMD based on France’s current highly advanced technology and cited the ASTER missile system as an example.
This will be a most interesting topic to follow for any one of a number of reasons. As anyone who has worked with/in NATO will attest, gaining consensus for action is the key for success, be it in planning or operations. But in the world of missile defense, one of the hardest things to accomplish is establishing a sound architecture for command and control of the system. Hard enough when only one or two countries or AORs are in play, and almost Stygian where the defended area encompasses many borders and nations. Seams abound and where seams and gaps reside, ballistic missiles readily fill. In no small degree this is one of the major challenges Navy faces as it moves down the four-phase PAA for the defense of Europe with sea- and shore-based Aegis BMD/SM-3 integrated with TPY-2 and THAAD batteries. Perhaps in the interest of integration and economy, France ought to look closer at what the US has already accomplished with international partners like Japan, Israel, Britain, Spain and the Dutch across a variety of programs and capabilities.
(note: the study may be found here: http://www.christopheguilloteau.com/actualite1.htm)
In the meantime, Russia continues to work a campaignof disinformation, hoping to disrupt and thwart the deployment of BMD in Europe…
Iran No Threat to USA, Europe ‘In Foreseeable Future’ – Russian Foreign Minister
In an article in today’s Ria Novosti, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took a direct shot at the US’s proposed missile defense plan for Europe and the US:
“It is evident that Iran currently poses no threat to the U.S. and European countries… At the moment, Iran has no missiles capable of striking Europe, let alone the U.S., and is unlikely to develop [such missiles] in the foreseeable future,” Lavrov said.
Pressing the point, in another article he surfaced a concern that the US has repeatedly, since the days of the GBI deployment, detailed to the Russians is not the case:
U.S. officials admit that the missile defense system in Europe might be able to hit Russian inter-continental ballistic missiles by 2020. (ed. Note – it was said at the time that phase 4 would have a limited capability against some ICBMs – the US has never made the statement Lavrov attributes – SJS)
“The U.S. administration says its global missile shield program is not directed against Russia. However, our conclusions on the true potential of the future missile defense system should be based on specific military and technical factors, not on words,” Lavrov said.
“We will not accept a state of affairs when a missile defense system poses a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential,” he went on.
The question one must ask — is Lavrov playing a “bad cop” to Medvedev’s “good cop” (and that is stretching it given Medvedev’s comments re. linking missile defense with the follow-on START treaty) where his rhetoric is merely used to address the home audience’s concerns, or, are we seeing a glimpse of Putin’s approach when he ceases being the power behind the throne and assumes the full mantle of national leadership as many expect when he is eligible once again? If the latter, then this Administration is going to have its hands full. Caution in dealing with our European allies, especially with Poland and the like, is the watchword. After unilaterally changing direction on one missile defense plan for Europe and the US by the switch from GBI’s to the PAA (and, for the record, I thought this was a proper shift) – another such shift that reduces or places additional limits in any way on the planned system will have negative consequences for perceived US leadership on the Continent.
We can expect that the Russians will continue to press this issue relentlessly – and our leadership, especially State and DoD had better be ready to just as relentlessly push-back.
Last month Iran unveiled a new long-range missile, the Simorgh, as a follow-on to the Safir SLV. Putatively identified as a space launch vehicle, it bears strong familial ties to the TD-2 prototype SLV/ICBM launched last April (2009). Since then, some analysts have noted that while the airframe has made an appearance sooner than the NIE’s from 2008/2009 suggested, much still remains to be put in place for the program to reach flight test stage. Chief among those items would be a launch site as something of this size requires a much larger complex for support than the Safir.
According to press reports over the weekend, it appears that too is well underway and sooner than many had expected:
Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. The new launcher, constructed near an existing rocket base in the Semnan province east of Tehran, is visible in satellite imagery, according to the report. The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes. Both the missile and the launch pad, which according to Jane’s is large enough to accommodate it, point to cooperation from Pyongyang. (Jerusalem Post, 6 March 2010)
Firing up GE, we locate the site fairly quickly:
Ballistic missile capabilities continue to increase with the proliferation of missile technology. Over 20 countries have ballistic missile systems and it is likely that missiles will be a threat in future conflicts involving U.S. forces. Ballistic missiles have been used in several conflicts over the last 20 years, including the Iran-Iraq war, the Afghan civil war, the war in Yemen, the 1991 and 2003 Persian Gulf conflicts, and the Russian military action in Chechnya.
In order to better understand ballistic missile capabilities, this document addresses ballistic missile basics, characteristics, proliferation, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from select ballistic missile capable countries.
Comes word over-night of an apparently successful attempt by Iran to place a satellite in orbitusing the Safir-2 space launch vehicle (SLV). The Safir (“Ambassador”) was ingeniously developed as part of Iran’s growing rocket and missile program and has direct links to its attempts to develop extended range missiles in the IRBM and ultimately, ICBM range. Periodicity of the satellite, named “Omid” (“Hope”) is said to be 14 orbits in every 24-hrs according to IRNA, Iran’s press agency.
While congratulations are presumably in order for this accomplishment, one must step back and review its implications. Begin here - as we have previously looked at regional implications of a successful Iranian space-launch and Iranian intransigence on the nuclear front, especially where Israel is concerned. While one presumably successful space launch (still awaiting independent confirmation) does not a missile force make, the fact that the Iranian program marks this success, that it is outside the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and is known to have strong ties with the North Korean and Syrian programs, bodes ill for future proliferation schemes. As the US and its European partners gather this week to review the way ahead for continued engagement regarding Iran’s nuclear program, this shot, coming on the eve of that meeting and near the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution should give the assembled party pause to consider just what are Iran’s intentions, particularly vis-a-vis negotiated agreements and arms control.
In 1985, then speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Hashemi-Rafsanjani stated that acquisition of a viable ballistic missile force was a national priority and Iran would become “…a missile power second only to the superpowers.” As the primary supplier of material and technical assistance to Hamas’ rocket campaign against Israel, as a nation that went from zero capability to conducting operational launches against Iraq during the war of the cities in less than two months in early 1985 and now as one that has joined the handful of other states to have built and launched an indigenous space launch vehicle while actively blocking inspection of its nuclear program, Iran’s challenge to regional peace and stability has just been ratcheted up another notch. Not just Israel, but now Europe, especially the southern tier should and must be more aware of the implicit threat embodied in yesterday’s event.
From Norbert Brugge’s excellent space vehicle site are a large collection of photos of the Safir as released by IRNA. Note the size/scale of the missile compared to the nearby humans.
Arms Control Wonk has analyses of the initial orbital parameters as well as a graphic here and here. See especially the comments – some rudimentary (back of the envelope) calculations seem to yield a range of 2500 km w/a 1,000 kg payload (representative nuke payload).
Finally, apropos the significance of this event in the larger scheme of things, comes this observation in an editorial column in today’s Ria Novosti:
The first sputnik was designed to distract a government that was bent on nuclear arms development.
The effect exceeded all expectations, but that is a different story…
…things that make you go “hmmm…”