Iran Again Tests Their Shahab-3 Missile

| July 9, 2008

World media outlets on the web, print and broadcast are all discussing the war games in Iran during the US night time today. The headline event of these exercises by the Revolutionary Guard was the test launch of an Iranian medium range missile, the Shahab 3.

Excellent diagram courtesy of

The Shahab 3 has a range somewhat greater than 800 miles (1350 kilometers) depending on the size of the warhead. Intelligence reports are that it’s maximum payload is about a ton (1000 kg). The design is losely based off an old Soviet liquid fueled missle known as the Scud-B that was greatly modified by North Korea to create the Nodong family of missiles. These missiles are fired from mobile launchers and are notoriously hard to detect and destroy before they are launched. During the first gulf war the Iraqis were very adept at launching Scuds in a “Shoot and Scoot” manner, avoiding detection and counter-strike, even from the highly integrated US forces.

North Korea being who they are were all too happy to sell the Nodong designs to Pakistan, Iran and anyone else that could pay. There is some evidence that in the 1970’s, China collaborated with North Korea to refine the design of the Nodong systems, and there may have been some cross trading of technology with early Chinese missile projects.

During the Clinton administration the North Koreans successfully transfered the Nodong design to Iran. Iran created an industrial complex to test, engineer and enhance the Nodong and transform it into the Shahab. There is some evidence that there may have been collaboration on these enhancements from US and western European companies for some rather stiff fees.

The range of the Shahab-3 places some of the more volatile regions of the world under the threat of a Persian missile attack with little or no notice.

Shehab Range.png

This includes the state of Israel, the oil fields of the middle east, the command and control centers for the US military in Qatar, our forces in Iraq, our allies in Turkey, all of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the US’s favorite high tech outsourcing destination: India.

Am I suggesting the Iranians are about to attack these places? No, the Iranians are not that stupid. They are masters at negotiation and brinksmanship. These tests were conducted for a single purpose, to gain leverage in negotiations with the US over the fate of Iranian involvement in Iraq, and to send a warning signal to Israel that they should think twice before attacking. This message was also sent to the US that Iran looks to “The Great Satan” to control their Israeli allies unless these important areas find a Shahab headed downrange towards them.

The Iranians were successful in getting everyone’s attention, but one has to wonder how many Aegis cruisers are in the area. I am certain that ace shooters like the USS Lake Erie would find a low tech, low altitude Shahab-3 akin to shooting fish in a barrel. The Iranians are welcome to waste their toy rockets on tests, but chances of them getting one of these to a target must be very low.

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Category: Geopolitics, Intelligence, Main, Maps, Military

About the Author ()

Bruce Henderson is a former Marine who focuses custom data mining and visualization technologies on the economy and other disasters.

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