Friday, January 20, 2006

Purchase of North Korean Missiles Extends Iran's Force Projection Capability

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Counter Terrisom Blog:

A little-noticed story from late 2005 could prove quite significant as conflict with Iran draws closer. On December 16, the German newspaper Bild reported on the German secret services' claim that Iran had bought 18 disassembled BM-25 missiles from North Korea.

The BM-25 missile is based on the Soviet SS-N-6 (R-27) submarine-launched ballistic missile. Although Bild said that the missiles Iran purchased have a range of 2,500 kilometers, Jane's Defense Weekly reported that North Korea, with the help of Russian specialists, has developed two new versions of the R-27 with extended ranges. Analysts believe that the land-based version has a range of 2,500 to 4,000 kilometers.


Consistent with this report, Bild reported that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to have the missiles' range "extended to 3,500 kilometers." The German secret service report warned that "with a longer range, and the probability that (Tehran) would try to equip the missiles with nuclear warheads, there is the risk that Iran could strike at Israel and parts of central Europe."

Reader Timothy Thompson, who is always able to provide keen insight into weapons systems, comments on the missile purchase:

[The BM-25 missiles that Iran purchased] can easily be launched from [a] freighter modified with launch tubes and blast channels. They give Iran a projection of force capability far beyond the 2000-3000 km range of the missiles. It is possible -- though not confirmed -- that Iran may not use the BM-25's but only bought them to get the R-27 rocket motors for a missile of their own design.

The countries most concerned about these developments are Israel and Turkey. Israel's concern is obvious: Anytime a country whose president has vowed to wipe you off the map improves its ability to strike, that is a worrisome development. Turkey's concern stems from three major factors. First, it shares a large border with Iran. Second, Iranian missiles can reach vital Turkish military and industrial targets. Third, the NATO treaty obligates Turkey to treat any attack on another NATO country as an attack on its own territory. In the event this were to occur, we may see the use of Turkish ground forces.

Iran's ability to strike at longer range makes military options against that country increasingly perilous.