Iranian Ballistic Missile Facility Found
“Do satellite photos show Iran ballistic missile facility?” asks a CSM headline. The answer, apparently, is yes. Here’s the photo in question:
Can you identify the missile facility? Me neither, aside from the little circle with “CB” in it. Michael Evans of the Times of London, though, says that people who know how to read these things can.
The secret site where Iran is suspected of developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets in Europe has been uncovered by new satellite photographs. The imagery has pinpointed the facility from where the Iranians launched their Kavoshgar 1 “research rocket” on February 4, claiming that it was in connection with their space programme.
Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).
A previously unknown missile location, the site, about 230km southeast of Tehran, and the link with Iran’s long-range programme, was revealed by Jane’s Intelligence Review after a study of the imagery by a former Iraq weapons inspector. A close examination of the photographs has indicated that the Iranians are following the same path as North Korea, pursuing a space programme that enables Tehran to acquire expertise in long-range missile technology.
Avital Johanan, the editor of Jane’s Proliferation, said that the analysis of the Iranian site indicated that Tehran may be about five years away from developing a 6,000km ballistic missile. This would tie in with American intelligence estimates and underlines why President Bush wants the Polish and Czech components of the US missile defence system to be up and running by 2013.
Iran says these are just rockets that will be used as part of a friendly space program. Analysts disagree.
However, according to Jane’s Intelligence Review, the satellite photographs prove that the Kavoshgar 1 rocket was not part of a civilian space centre project but was consistent with Iran’s clandestine programme to develop longer-range missiles. The examination of the launch site revealed that it was part of a large and growing complex “with very high levels of security and recent construction activity”. It was clearly “an important strategic facility”, Dr Forden said.
The former Iraq weapons inspector said that Iran was benefiting from the North Korean missile programme and following its designs. The Taepodong 1 consisted of a liquid-propellant Nodong (like the Shahab 3) first stage, a liquid-propellant Scud second stage and a solid-propellant third stage. “The production and testing facility next to the Kavoshgar 1 launch site would seem well positioned to contribute to this third stage,” Dr Forden said.
CSM’s Arthur Bright connects the dots: “If the Iranian facility is indeed developing a long-range ballistic missile, it would explain NATO’s decision last week to move ahead with the missile shield program supported by the US.”
It would indeed.