Analysis: Iranian ICBM claim falls short of the mark

February 2, 2015

IHS Jane’s 360:

Claims that Iran is preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) are based on incorrect analysis of a satellite image showing the new facility at the Khomeini Space Centre in Semnan province.

The claim was first made on 21 January by Israel’s Channel 2 on the basis of an undated EROS-B satellite image of the new facility that was probably taken sometime in 2014. It was then picked up by several other outlets. Channel 2 said the image showed a 27 m missile that was capable of hitting targets “far beyond Europe”.

The facility has been under construction for several years and is presumed to be designed for the Simorgh satellite launch vehicle (SLV) that Iran needs to lift heavier payloads into orbit. The Iran Space Agency announced in October 2014 that it planned to put three satellites into orbit using the Simorgh in the Persian year 1394, which starts on 21 March.

The declassified version of the US Department of Defense’s annual report on Iran’s military power, released in January 2014, noted that “Iran has publicly stated it may launch a space launch vehicle by 2015 that could be capable of intercontinental ballistic missile ranges if configured as a ballistic missile”.

While the Simorgh is theoretically capable of ICBM ranges, it cannot deliver an effective warhead over such distances. Iranian media have reported that it will be able to lift a payload of just 100 kg into orbit.

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