- 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
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
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
- 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
from the previous Shahab 3. Everything but the propulsion system was
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
Israeli officials have said the larger nose section is capable of
and visually appears similar to that used on the Russian SS-9
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
missile engineers, probably Russian, rather than an experimental
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,
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
provided by the Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan would be helpful to
the effort. If true, the efforts would signify that Iran is further
in its nuclear weapons programme than previously known.