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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Israeli expert says Iran 'bluffing' about missile range

An Israeli expert claims that Iran is 'bluffing' about the range of its Shihab-3 missiles. On Wednesday, Iran conducted a test in which it claimed that it successfully launched a Shihab-3 missile that has a range of 2000 kilometers. That would put all of Israel within range. (Go here and click on Shahab-3 ER). But Uzi Rubin, who was a program director of Homa, under which Israel developed the Arrow anti-missile system, is convinced that what Iran launched on Wednesday was not a new version of the Iranian ballistic missile. And if you go to the same link and click on Shahab-3 - which shows a 1300-kilometer range - you will see that much of Israel is just outside the range. That doesn't mean that Iran isn't developing a longer-range missile, nor that it will not seek to develop one in the future.
"From what I saw, this is an old version of the Shahab-3, and contrary to their claims, it is not capable of reaching 2,000 kilometers, only 1,300 kilometers," he said on Wednesday.

Rubin raised the possibility that a version of Shahab-3 with a 2,000 km range has still not been tested or is still not operational.

"Without being hasty, I note that the Iranians have a tendency to exaggerate to a certain extent the capabilities of their missiles," he said.

The test-firing of missiles was aimed at showing Israel and the U.S. that Tehran is capable of responding to threats against its nuclear installations.

Experts say that the Shahab-3 is based on a liquid fuel rocket that requires fueling prior to launch, a time consuming process that leaves the weapon vulnerable to being identified from the air.

But Dr. Nathan Farber of the Technion in Haifa says that the Iranians are in the process of developing a more advanced version of the Shahab, known as the Ashura, with a range of 2,000 km. According to Farber's assessment, the new missile uses solid propellants, which makes it easier to launch, although unlike the Shahab-3, its flight time to Israel is estimated at 14 minutes, compared to 11 of the older missile.

Intelligence analysts estimate that Iran has several hundred Shahab-3 in its arsenal, but a much larger stockpile, of several thousand shorter range missiles (up to 400 km) capable of targeting U.S. forces in Iraq or their allies in the Persian Gulf.
Another thing that Iran may have bluffed yesterday is one of the images of the missiles that was released to the world. Charles Johnson says at least one of them was photo-shopped. There's an animated version (with not as high-resolution a picture) here.

Is this good news for Israel or is it wishful thinking? Uzi Rubin has some pretty solid credentials. He headed up the development team for Israel's Arrow anti-missile system. And if Dr. Farber is correct, those three extra minutes should help Israel to deploy its anti-missile systems. That's not to minimize in any way the threat Iran poses. I would not assume that a nuclear-armed Iran would limit itself to launching nuclear weapons from within its own territory. That function could be delegated to Syria, Hezbullah in Lebanon and possibly even Hamas in Gaza, all of which are well within Shihab-3 range.


At 9:13 AM, Blogger Findalis said...

The photos the Iranians released were doctored. I don't think they got the desired results and are bluffing as usual.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

If the US actually plans to provide any military assistance to Israel vs. Iran, it's safe to assume that Condi will be the last to know and may be out of the loop altogether.


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