Archive for the 'proliferation' Tag
March 2011. The still of the pre-dawn darkness is only slightly disturbed by the passage of a container ship. Like the many thousands of others like her plying the ocean’s ways, this one’s cargo is neatly stacked on the deck — ISO shipping containers in a multitude of colors and shippers markings. As the fog bank thickens, a radar scope is closely scrutinized on the bridge. Out here, off the shipping lanes no other merchant traffic is expected and, it would appear, neither were there any signs of fishing craft or more troubling, naval or coast guard ships. Earlier in the night a code had been passed via an internet podcast and confirmed via a secure webpage. Soon, very soon, part of the ship’s cargo would complete the long journey begun in Sverdlovsk.
Up forward, locks are removed on two of the containers and a pair of shadowy figures enter each container. A series of muffled noises from the interior of the boxes is rapidly followed by their tops falling to one side and a brace of four tubes quickly rise to the vertical. A minute or two passes and the quiet is shattered by a series of explosions. From each tube a long, slender figure emerges atop a cloud of gases. Bright flames suddenly appear and the forms race off to the far horizon, away from the sun, still hours away from rising.
NAVSTA Norfolk has been home to US naval aviation ever since Eugene Ely first flew his fragile, kite-like aircraft off a makeshift platform mounted on the anchored USS Birmingham. From her roadsted, flattops of the Essex, Midway, Forrestal, Enterprise and now the Nimitz class sortied to distant spots on the globe to carry out the missions assigned — presence, deterrence, and when necessary, the fury unleashed from their decks and the holds of their escorts reinforced the determination of a free people to remain free.
On this early morning, Pier 12 is brightly lit in floodlights as the two Nimitz-class carriers, USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 72) complete preparations for an emergency sortie on the tide. Both had pulled into Norfolk one day prior with their full airwing complement on board to take on one final round of provisions and the remainder of their embarked airwing personnel and equipment. Tensions have dramatically risen in the Gulf over the past few weeks following Iran’s declaration of nuclear capability. There had been no detonation, and some were saying it was just a boast – that the Iranians were still years away from really having the capability for even a couple of weapons. Still, Israel had attempted a long-range strike only to recall it when the US threatened to expose the mission. A show of force was in order and to reinforce the two carrier presence in the Gulf (Eisenhower and Washington were already there) the Vinson was being turned back from a Hong Kong port visit and TR with Truman would join her outside the Straits of Hormuz.
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: