Russians Help Iranian Perfect
'Major League' Missile

By Andrew Koch
Jane's Defence Weekly -Washington Bureau Chief
and Robin Hughes - Jane's Deputy News Editor London
Additional reporting by Alon Ben-David, Jane's Correspondent Tel Aviv
As the controversy over whether Iran is conducting a secret nuclear weapons programme gathers momentum, new details are emerging about Tehran's ballistic missiles likely to carry such weapons.
The mostly likely delivery system, a liquid-fuelled medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), referred to in the US as the Shahab 3A, has been flight-tested several times in the past few months.
The Paris-based Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in London on 2 December, claimed that Tehran, under what it alleged to be a " wider clandestine programme," is developing a new medium-range ballistic missile called the Ghadr-101. US intelligence officials believe the Ghadr 101 is the same as the Shahab 3A.
However,Uzi Rubin, former director of Israel's Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation told JDW: "It appears that there are two competing teams in Iran working on its future medium-range ballistic missile. The version that was recently tested [in August] and presented in public already deserves the title Shahab 4, as it is completely different from the previous Shahab 3. Everything but the propulsion system was changed, the range was increased, as well as the re-entry vehicle."
The missile has a modified nose section allowing it to hold a larger warhead and thus provide additional room for a nuclear device. Israeli officials have said the larger nose section is capable of separation and visually appears similar to that used on the Russian SS-9 intercontinental ballistic missile. "It is not a copy of a known missile but the new Shahab has a major-league design. It's clear that it is the work of seasoned missile engineers, probably Russian, rather than an experimental beginners," version, added Rubin.
Such extra room is vital as Iranian nuclear engineers would face major technical challenges in making the country's first nuclear weapon light enough and small enough to fit on its existing missiles, particularly without benefit of having conducted full-scale nuclear weapons tests. The weapon is believed by US officials to be an indigenous design although knowledge gained from blueprints of a working, but too large nuclear weapon, provided by the Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan would be helpful to the effort. If true, the efforts would signify that Iran is further advanced in its nuclear weapons programme than previously known.



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