U.S. Naval Institute, Feb 4, 2011 —
We are about one-third of the way through Iran’s annual “Ten Days of Dawn” observation which celebrates the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran and the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The occasion serves as a platform for Iran to boast about progress under the Islamic Republic and demonstrate military, scientific and technical prowess. This, despite the West’s attempts to limit technology transfer in key areas, such as missile technology.
Day 3 of the celebration is set-aside as “Space Day” and yesterday, Iran’s President Ahmedenejad had three items of note/accomplishment to announce that:
Iran had launched a payload of animal specimens (a mouse, turtles and worms) into space and recovered them on a new research rocket named Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3);
Three new satellites were unveiled: the Tolou (Sunrise), the Mesbah 2 (Lantern 2), and the Navid (Promising Sign) and
A new space launch vehicle, Simorgh-3, which will serve as the launch vehicle for those satellites.
Of these announcements, the last is the most interesting and perhaps, troubling. With the ability to loft 220 lbs into a 310 mile earth orbit (if it indeed works), that would move Iran into a new capability category with a nascent ICBM. The implications for the US and allies would be the impact on the European PAA and near term planning for the global BMDS, all of which (along with the BMDR) were predicated on a slower timeline for Iran to develop an ICBM capability, 2015 or ‘mid-decade.’ Tied with Iran’s continued intransigence on the nuclear front (aided and abetted by China’s continued refusal to support a sanctions regime) this is one announcement that has little upside to it. Russia, at least, is coming into alignment with the US:
“Mutual understanding between Russia and its international partners on additional sanctions has clearly improved,” Kosachyov said in an interview with state broadcaster Rossiya 24 today. “The situation is beginning to alarm us increasingly.”
A successful launch will likely bring pressure to bear on the US to step up the rate of deployment and development of both the sea- and land-based elements of the European PAA, leveraging increased deployment time on units that are already HDLD in nature and turning up the burner on the SM-3 Blk IIa program. It may also cause a reassessment of the plans for the ground-based BMD system to see if it still serves as a hedge in its current configuration as per the BMDR.
The continued advancement of Iran’s missile programs stands in defiance of the MTCR, a voluntary consortium of 39 countries regarding the export controls on technologies central to missile development. Of course, neither China nor North Korea are members and they are among the worst of the serial proliferators, North Korea especially so in the case of cooperative ventures with Iran. Also neither China, North Korea or Iran are parties to the follow-on regime, the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. The enablement of this unholy alliance of proliferators brings us to the Simorgh. Below are two images, one of the boost stage of the Safir-2, which placed a small satellite into earth orbit last year. The second image is what is presumed to be the business end of the Simorgh’s first stage — a cluster of four liquid-propelled rockets.
Safir 1st stage (Feb 2009)
Simorgh booster engines (Feb 2010)
Again, clearly it seems the Iran’s indigenous program is well underway in spite of these regimes.
The leading question then becomes, given the historical record of cooperative effort between North Korea and Iran, how related is/will be the Simorgh to the TD-2:
TD-2 Safir Comparison (2009)
. . . and that, as the saying goes, is the $64,000 question.
- The Case of the Iranian Warships and the Suez Canal
- No Magic Bullet For Iran’s Nuclear Efforts
- Iran, oil, and nuclear weapons: Is there an ‘optimistic’ prospectus?
- Iran, nuclear weapons, and a common syntax and logic in nuclear discourse
- U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs considers tougher sanctions on Iran
- Iran, nuclear weapons, and the effectiveness of economic sanctions