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Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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March 4, 2003

Al-Samoud 2 Theater Ballistic Weapon

Type: Short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) for use with high-explosive (HE) or chemical warfare (CW) warheads.

Initial Operational Capability (IOC): Estimated IOC 2002. 

Replacement for: Al-Samoud (formerly known as Ababil-100) SSM.

Manufacturer: Karama State Establishment believed responsible for development of Al-Samoud [1], and therefore probably Al-Samoud 2. Several facilities have been involved in the manufacture of the Al-Samoud 2, including one at Al Wazariya. At least one facility is known as the Al-Samoud Company/Factory.

Program History: Al-Samoud 2 — the name means, essentially, “disdainful steadfastness” — was believed to have been first tested in 1997, and was based on a scaled-down Soviet Scud (R-11) MRBM design, and using some elements of the Russian SA-2 Volga surface-to-air missile (SAM). Al-Samoud 2 evolved from original Iraqi Ababil -100 liquid-engine missile (subsequently renamed as Al-Samoud), which had a smaller diameter and less range than the Al-Samoud 2. It also drew on the J1 missile program, begun in 1991. Iraq circumvented 1991 UN Resolution 687 to import SA-2 missile engines which were configured for use in the Al-Samoud 2, or were, in February 2003, in the process of being so configured. SA-2 thrust regulators, gas generators and air pressure regulators are also believed, among other SA-2 components, to be incorporated into the Al-Samoud 2. SA-2 autopilots and other guidance and control items, such as gyroscopes, accelerometers, inertial equipment and software were also imported or developed for use with the Al-Samoud 2 system. First flight tests of the Al-Samoud [1] variant began in 1997 and continued into 1998, with a series of operational tests. In 1995, Iraq admitted that it was modifying an SA-2 design to a surface-to-surface mission.

Iraqi weapons designers previously had perfected surface-to-surface missile (SSM) variants of the SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, and SA-6 Gainful SAMs. These SSMs were part of a larger program to produce indigenously the three identified SAM systems. These earlier SSM systems were put on display at an arms trade exhibition in Baghdad in 1988. The SSM variants required alterations in their guidance and fuzing systems to permit their employment in that role.

Variants: The following versions are in service: 

Al-Samoud 2 with chemical warhead (verified by GIS sources).
Al-Samoud 2 with biological warhead (believed under development, but not verified).
Al-Samoud 2 with HE warhead.

Current Operators: Iraq.



One source cites the length and diameter of the Al-Samoud 2 as being:

Length: appr. 7.5m
Diameter: 760mm.

Analysis of the data and the airframe shapes result in the following values:

Length: Al-Samoud 1 — Unk. meters (Unk. feet); Al-Samoud 2 —  estimated to be approximately 7.50 meters (24.60 feet). The length of the Al-Samoud 2 is similar to that of the SS-23 Spider (9M174 Oka) SRBM, which is stated alternatively as 7.31 meters (24.0 feet) or 7.52 meters (24.67 feet).

Diameter: Al-Samoud 1 — Unk. meters (Unk. inches);  Al-Samoud 2 — estimated to be 0.76 meters ( 29.92 inches). The airframe of the Al-Samoud 2 has a greater diameter than that of the FROG-7 (0.55 meters [21.65 inches]), yet the diameter is smaller than that of the SS-1 Scud (0.84 meters (33.06 inches).

Fin Span: Unknown at this time. The tail fins are cruciform with a cropped delta shape. The tail fins are for stabilization, with smaller control surfaces on the trailing edges for full control authority.

Guidance: Inertial, using three gyroscopes for X-, Y-, and Z-axes. The effort to acquire improved guidance packages for Iraqi ballistic missiles including the Al-Samoud 2 has involved France, Russia, Romania, and other nations.

Although not mentioned by different sources, it should be noted that the ultra high-frequency (UHF) command up-link used by the SA-2 SAM system may be a feature of the Al-Samoud 2. Jamming this signal may be difficult under combat conditions, since such jamming may interfere with tactical communications and UHF data links for US and other allied aircraft and guided weapons.

When used in the SSM role, the SA-2 Dvina/Volga series were launched in a semi-ballistic trajectory and were controlled via ultra high-frequency (UHF) command up-link.  This was a reliable technique as proven in the use of SA-2s and other former Soviet SAMs by former client states in different conflicts. The key drawback in relying on a UHF data link is that it is a line-of-sight (LOS) transmission. In mountainous terrain such as Afghanistan, the former Najibullah Government found it difficult to direct SA-2s and other missiles accurately at villages or other targets. Circumstances permitting UHF data link course corrections to a point closer to the intended impact point improves the probability of a hit (Ph).

Control Method: Control of the Al-Samoud 2 is exerted by means of control surfaces on the four missile tail fins which are smaller than those found on the original SA-2 Dvina/Volga series. As the airspeed increases, the control surfaces on the tail fins gain authority. The control surfaces require small degrees of motion as the missile reaches peak velocity and booster burnout occurs.

Smaller tail fins are possible since the Al-Samoud 2 has considerably less length than the SA-2 -- 7.5 meters vs. 10.6 to 11.2 meters. Additionally, the entire nose end of the Al-Samoud 2 presents less aerodynamic drag forward. The effort to acquire improved guidance packages for Iraqi ballistic missiles including the Al-Samoud 2 has involved France, Russia, Romania, and other nations.


Launch Weight:

The following assessment represents the best information available to this analyst, but it should be noted that most sources are unclear as to the all-up round weights for the Al-Samoud 2 missile.

Al-Samoud 1  — Unknown; Al-Samoud 2  —  HE: 2,400 kg (5,280 lb) or CW: 2,300 kg (5,060 lb). The latter value is considered as an estimate. The FROG-7 and SS-21 Scarab (9K79 Tochka system) weapons are of similar weights, 2,300 kg (5,060 lb) and 2,700 kg (5,940 lb), respectively.

Payload Weight: 

The following assessment represents the best information available to this analyst, but it should be noted that most sources are unclear as to the warhead types and weights for the Al-Samoud 2 missile.

Al-Samoud 2 — Unitary HE warhead weight: 300 kg (660 lb). The likely warheads for the Al-Samoud 2 missile will be either unitary high-explosive or chemical bulk fill. The chemical warhead is assessed as weighing 200 kg (440 lb). It should be noted that a series of chemical munitions produced by the former Soviet Union and demonstrated to the Iraqis combined features of both warhead types. The purpose behind combining both HE and CW was to destroy the effectiveness of CBW ensembles, permitting the CW agent to reach the wearer.

A cluster munition warhead is a reasonable projection for the Al-Samoud 2 missile; this would be a simple alternative payload. This cluster warhead would reduce the effects of the Al-Samoud 2 inaccuracy on mission performance. The payload weight would be 300 kg (660 lb). The cluster munition payload reportedly consists of 30 submunitions each of 5 kg (11 lb) weight; given the likely missions assigned to the Al-Samoud 2, the submunitions may include chemical, conventional, and biological payloads. It is possible that radiological payloads could be employed.

Fuzing: An Al-Samoud 2 ballistic missile with a chemical warhead is probably fitted with a combined electronic timer and barometric fuzing system. The purpose of the fuzing system of the chemical warhead Al-Samoud 2 SRBM is to guarantee an airburst of the payload. If fitted with an HE warhead, the Al-Samoud 2 SRBM probably employs a radio proximity fuze with a mechanical all-ways acting impact fuze as a backup. An electronic impact fuze is a possible option.


Range: claimed at less than 150km (82 nm), but UN assesses range at around 180km (98 nm). GIS estimates that, with chemical load, range exceeds 200km (110 nm).

Circular error probable (CEP): Al-Samoud 1 — 1.0 km (0.54 nm); Al-Samoud 2 — 2.0 km (1.1 nm). Both CEP values assume unitary warheads although of two different designs and weights: 300 kg (660 lb) HE and 200 kg (440 lb). The CEP for a possible Al-Samoud 2 missile fitted with a submunition warhead is estimated to be much larger than for the baseline unitary warhead variant. The CEP values are assessed to be adversely impacted by the nature of the payload section which would disintegrate and cause the payload to be dispensed over the intended target.

The Al-Samoud series design was intended to have a baseline CEP of 0.5 km (0.27 nm), not unlike the FROG-7 battlefield support rocket. The effort to acquire improved guidance packages for Iraqi ballistic missiles including the Al-Samoud 2 has involved France, Russia, Romania, and other nations.


Liquid fuel rocket. The motor of the Al-Samoud 2, if a liquid-propelled rocket motor probably employs an oxidizer such as red fuming nitric acid (RFNA) and a hydrocarbon fuel such unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UMDH).

The booster motor of the Al-Samoud 2 is assessed by some sources to be a copy of the motor used in the SA-2 Dvina/Volga (Guideline) series. The original booster motor was a solid-fuel motor; the sustainer employed red fuming nitric acid (RFNA) and a hydrocarbon fuel.

The original SA-2 Dvina/Volga series of SAMs had a sustainer motor burn time of 22 seconds.

Tactical Considerations:

Target effects: Damage to the target from a single Al-Samoud 2 missile would be limited to the effects inflicted by the warhead upon detonation. Should the fuzing for the warhead fail to actuate at an optimal altitude, damage would occur upon the transference of the missile body's kinetic energy to the target. Should the Al-Samoud 2 missile be used at short engagement ranges, it is possible that any unused propellant could  increase the damage inflicted on the target.

The chemical payload variant of the Al-Samoud 2 missile is intended solely to generate numerous casualties upon the scattering of its warhead contents as the fuzing triggers the rupture of the payload section. If the fuzing for the chemical payload malfunctions, the missile payload will be distributed solely by the break-up upon impact with the ground. It is possible that the chemical payload may be dispersed more widely if the Al-Samoud 2 missile is intercepted at a high altitude by a MIM-104 Patriot or similar surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The result would be to disperse the Al-Samoud 2 chemical agent over a larger area than was intended, but the lower concentration of the agent would present a defender with a reduced threat. It is likely that the chemical agent would trigger alarms on the ground although insufficient "dosage" would reach personnel to inflict casualties.

The Al-Samoud 2 missile may be fitted with a biological agent payload; it is likely that the primary difference in this variant would be in the means by which the agent is deployed in the target area. If the fuzing of the Al-Samoud 2 missile malfunctions, the payload of the missile will be dispersed upon impact rather than above the ground and upwind from the target. Similarly, any biological agent payload may be dispersed more widely if the Al-Samoud 2 missile is intercepted at a high altitude by a MIM-104 Patriot or similar surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The result would be to disperse the Al-Samoud 2 biological agent over a larger area than was intended. This would cause the agent to be scattered over an area so much larger as to present a risk to nations uninvolved in the conflict. It is possible that the biological agent would be detected on the ground although insufficient "dosage" would reach personnel to inflict casualties.

The Al-Samoud 2 missile could be fitted with a possible submunition payload of 30 bomblets. This would improve its performance against area targets such as vehicle parks, airfields, and SAM sites. The likely weight of a bomblet would be 5 kg (11 lb); such a bomblet would probably be a multipurpose submunition. It is likely that the casing of the bomblet would be designed to withstand a brief period of atmospheric heating prior to impact.

Mobility: The Al-Samoud 2 is road-mobile and is likely to employ a wheeled transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) such as for the FROG-7. The road TELs are augmented reportedly by TELs configured from systems modified from the trailers designed originally for the SA-2 Volga (Guideline).  It is possible that railroad flat cars or other dedicated launchers stored in hardened shelters may be used with the Al-Samoud 2. These launchers would be  capable of being moved outside only as long as necessary for the launch cycle, with pre-launch preparation being performed .

The Al-Samoud 2 missile system was designed to exploit Iraq's network of revetments and other previously prepared shelters. These serve as a network of launch sites designed and constructed to offer maximum concealment from overhead observation, shelter against air attack, and defense from counterbattery fire by various tactical missiles.

The Al-Samoud 2 missile system, derived from the SA-2 Volga SAMs, require little time to be prepared for launch. Once brought to readiness, only a few moments are necessary to fire the missile and move the TEL to a new launch point.

Given the previous experience of combat pilots in dealing with the SA-2 (S-75) SAM series, the Al-Samoud 2 booster motor will generate a cloud of dust at launch that will simplify detection of the launch point. The Iraqis may have a sufficient number of SA-2 launchers surviving from the Gulf War to permit the sacrifice of launchers to counterstrikes.

Accuracy: High mobility on the battlefield was an important lesson learned by Iraqi planners from the Gulf War. Being able to fire the Al-Samoud 2 in a "shoot and scoot" manner would be the key to the survival of this SRBM. Rapid mobility provided Iraqi Scud derivatives during the Gulf War with a capability to defeat Coalition air strikes, although at the expense of accuracy. The Iraqis have had sufficient time to establish a system of pre-surveyed launch sites/emplacements to provide an option unavailable to the Iraqis in 1991. The road-mobile Al-Samoud 2  would utilize a simple pre-launch process that would likely involve the alignment of the guidance system with pre-surveyed location being used as a launch point. Atmospheric data, winds velocities and directions aloft, such as could be employed as part of the calculations for the Al-Samoud 2 trajectory. Signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection assets in the air and on the ground looking and listening for radiofrequency emissions as a warning sign that a Scud missile is being readied for launch would not detect the preparations for an Al-Samoud 2 launch.

Countermeasures: The Al-Samoud 2 missiles are not assessed as having a dedicated countermeasures package. A countermeasures package would serve to improve penetration of a target area if defended by Patriot or similar anti-tactical ballistic missiles (ATBM). Since the Al-Samoud 2 missiles are based on the booster section of the SA-2 Volga (Guideline) SAM, the large tailfins are likely to disintegrate during the terminal descent towards the target. The portions of the tailfins would have similar velocity to the Al-Samoud 2 missile and may act as a decoy, luring the defending ATBMs away from the descending re-entry vehicle (RV). This countermeasure feature is a spin-off technique from earlier ballistic missile systems.

The separation of portions of the missile tailfins during descent may be useful as a countermeasure, yet the degradation of the Al-Samoud 2 missile accuracy to a degree that may cause mission failure unless the payload is of an area-effect nature. 

Warnings and Indications: The road-mobile Al-Samoud 2 missile systems do not require a pre-launch process that would provide detectable emissions. Likely pre-launch warning indications may arise from inadvertent communications transmissions. The detection of UHF data link emissions would be unlikely in the extreme prior to an Al-Samoud 2 launch; post-launch this has a higher degree of probability.

The first indication of an Al-Samoud 2 launch might come from an E-2C Hawkeye, E-3 Sentry, offshore Aegis guided-missile cruiser or guided-missile destroyer or the AN/MPQ-53 phased-array radar used with the Patriot missile system.

Al-Samoud 2 missile launchers might be visible to satellite reconnaissance from photographic and synthetic aperture radar sensors while in transit from the factory to the depot and then to the deployment area. It should be assumed that Iraq is generally aware of the sensor threat to the Al-Samoud 2.

Special Note: 

The following is the text of a letter, released by the UN on February 22, 2003, from Hans Blix, chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to Iraqi General Amer al-Saadi, ordering the destruction of Iraqi missiles. The text was made available by Blix's office.

The reference to UNSCOM is to the UN Special Commission, the previous disarmament agency.

Dear Dr al-Saadi,

During our latest discussions in Baghdad, on February 9 and 10, 2003, I informed you that a panel of international experts would be convened in New York to conduct a technical assessment of the range capabilities of Al-Samoud 2 and Al Fatah missile systems. The assessment was also to include the refurbished casting chambers associated with the proscribed Badr-2000 missiles that had been destroyed under UNSCOM supervision, as well as the capability of the test stand under construction at the Al Rafah Liquid Engine Test Facility.

The panel, which met on February 10 and 11, consisted of experts nominated by the governments of China, France, Germany, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States. The Russian expert nominated was unable to attend.

UNMOVIC experts provided the panel with background information on the relevant aspects of Iraq's missile program and infrastructure. The panel was also advised that, in 1994, UNSCOM had informed Iraq that any increase: of diameter in the design of the Ababil -100 liquid engine missile (subsequently renamed as Al-Samoud) exceeding 600 millimeters was not permitted. The panel was further informed that UNMOVIC had advised Iraq, in December 2002, to cease all flight tests of the Al-Samoud 2 which has a diameter of 760 millimeters, until UNMOVIC completed its technical assessment.

The panel also used in its assessment the information presented by Iraq to UNMOVIC experts in Baghdad on January 26 and February 10, as well as the results of four separate computer simulations of the ranges of the Al-Samoud 2 and Al Fatah missiles. These simulations were conducted by experts from four different countries using the data declared by Iraq.

The panel was unanimous in its assessment in reaching the attached conclusions. These conclusions were presented to UNMOVIC's College of Commissioners on February 13. On the basis of the panel's conclusions on the Al-Samoud 2, which do not call for further clarification or testing. I reported, on February 14, to the Security Council that two declared variants of the Al Samoud 2 missile system were capable of exceeding 150 kilometers in range, and were therefore proscribed pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) and the monitoring plan adopted by solution 715 (1991).

Accordingly, the government of Iraq should present to UNMOVIC for verifiable destruction all Al-Samoud 2 missiles and associated items, as follows:

1. All Al-Samoud 2 missies and warheads, whether deployed, assembled or partly assembled;

2. Fuel and oxidizer, where deployed with Al-Samoud missiles;

3. The SA-2 missile engines imported outside of the export/import mechanism and in contravention of paragraph 24 of resolution 687 (1991), which have been configured for use in the Al-Samoud 2, are in the process of being so configured, or are otherwise associated with the Al-Samoud 2 missile program;

4. All engine components acquired for the modification of the SA-2 engine for use with the Al-Samoud 2 system, such as thrust regulators, gas generators and air pressure regulators;

5. All SA-2 autopilots and other guidance and control items, such as gyroscopes, accelerometers, inertial equipment and software imported or developed for use with the Al-Samoud 2 system;

6. With respect to launchers, all parts of the launching mechanism that are designed for use with the Al-Samoud 2 system. The basic platforms of the vehicles need not be destroyed, but will be tagged and their future use monitored;

7. Those components specific to the Al-Samoud 2, which are incorporated in the logistic support vehicles, such as fuel, oxidizer and control vehicles required for the operation of the Al-Samoud 2 missile force;

8. Equipment and components designed for the production and testing of the Al-Samoud 2 missile; and

9. All software and documentation concerning conception, research and development, production and quality control related to the Al-Samoud 2 missile program.

With respect to the casting chambers that had been deemed proscribed and were destroyed under UNSCOM supervision, the panel confirmed that the reconstituted casting chambers could still be used to produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater than 150 kilometers, Accordingly, these chambers remain proscribed and are to be destroyed.

The panel found that clarification of Al Fatah missile data supplied by Iraq was required before the capability of the missile system could be assessed. UNMOVIC will request such clarification.

The panel also assessed that the AJ Rajah static test stand, under construction would be capable of testing missile engines with thrusts greater than that of the SA-2 engine. The test stand will be monitored.

The necessary destruction is to be carried out by Iraq under UNMOVIC guidance and supervision. UNMOVIC will select from a variety of methods of destruction, depending on the items to be destroyed, such as explosive demolition, crushing, melting and other physical and chemical methods.

The appropriate arrangements should be made so that the destruction process can commence by March 1, 2003.

Your sincerely,
Hans Blix

Weapon Report:

Shahab 3 Ballistic Missile Series

Type: Iranian-produced, intermediate-range, road mobile, liquid-propellant, single warhead ballistic missiles.

Guidance: Inertial.

Initial Operational Capability (IOC): Iran reportedly placed the domestically-produced Shahab-3 into "serial production" in early 2001.

Manufacturer: Hermat Missile Industries in Tehran. Missile motors and fuel tanks reportedly manufactured in an underground facility at Khojan. Design bureau organizations for their Shahab-3 missile are made up of the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group (SHIG) and the Shahid Bagheri Indusral Group (SBIG).

Program History/System Description: The Iranian Shahab-3 ballistic missile means Meteor-3 or Shooting Star-3 in Farsi [The program is also known as the Shahab 3, Shihab 3, Shehob 3 or Zelzal 3. In 1993, it is believed that Iran and North Korea participated on the joint development of the North Korean No-dong 1 and No-dong 2 single-stage, liquid-propellant missiles [reports also indicate the implication of Pakistan in various aspects of the development program for the Ghauri missile system]. The Shahab-3 reportedly has a range of between 1,300 and 1,500 kilometers and is capable of carrying a 1,000-760 kilogram warhead.

Western intelligence indicates that the Shahab-3 is in fact a modified variant of the Scud B or Scud C design but Chinese (PRC) as opposed to Russian (Soviet) in nature. Defense & Foreign Affairs reported in 1997, "There is logic in Tehran’s inclination to rely not only on the Russian missile technology of the 1970s and 1980s, but also on more recent Chinese adaptations of that technology, given the existing production capabilities in both the PRC and Iran. The PRC has long been involved in the Iranian missile programs. Since February 1991, Iran has been running a production line for Scud-Bs, using basic production systems from the DPRK and special sub-systems provided by the PRC. Since the Summer of that year, PRC and North Korean experts have been working on major, advanced SSM development and production facilities in Isfahan. The PRC also sold Iran technology for the development of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, including critical solid-fuel technology.

It was reported that Iran would purchase and manufacture a total of 150 No-Dong missiles with full range trials carried out in Iran [reportedly due to North Korea’s difficulty in conducting such trials without overflying Japanese territory]. Pressure from several countries in 1994 is reported to have led to North Korea abandoning the Iranian venture. According to Defense & Foreign Affairs, "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was reported on February 9, 2000, to have sold medium-range ballistic missile engines to the Islamic Republic of Iran in November 1999, according to a US Defense Department intelligence report cited by The Washington Times newspaper on February 9, 2000. The report said the DPRK transferred 12 engines to an Iranian Government agency involved in missile production in November 1999. It said that engines were seen being loaded on an Iran Air Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on November 21, 2000, at the Sunan International Airfield, just north of Pyongyang, DPRK. The report indicated that the engines transferred were the same type engine used on the No dong medium-range surface-to-surface missile. It is believed that Iran is using the engines as the first stage of the Shahab-3 missile which was flight tested on July 22, 1998." Reportedly, Shahab-3 development was led by the Aerospace Industries Authority.

The first flight test was made in July 1998, however, US and UK intelligence reports indicated that the flight was not entirely successful [failure of both guidance and flight control systems]. Defense & Foreign Affairs reported: "The test of the Shahab-3 was not fully successful as data from US monitoring of the test indicated that it was falling short of its apparent intended trajectory when it exploded, but it did travel a sufficient distance to verify its medium-range capabilities." Later intelligence reports on subsequent flight testing indicate successful flights of over 1,000 km [Analysis reveals that a Chinese telemetry set was provided for this test, and that further sets were delivered later in 1998].

A second flight test of over a range of 850 km in July and September 2000 (reportedly Shahab-3-D variant) were also successful [Iran described as a prototype satellite launch vehicle using solid/liquid propellants]. Additionally, according to Israeli intelligence, the Shahab-3-D used an improved guidance system, following PRC assistance, with a possible CEP of 250m.

A report in 1997 stated that Iran was negotiating with Libya to sell Shahab-3 missiles or technologies to Libya. Initial production of 12 to 15 missiles is believed to have begun in Iran in 1998, and an in-service date of 1999 was reported. It is believed that the missiles will be stored in underground bunkers at five sites, under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Each of the sites has a launch pad and support facilities. On December 15, 1997, satellite reconnaissance of the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group research facility, just south of Tehran, Iran detected the heat signature of an engine static test firing a Shahab-3 motor test, from a TEL vehicle. Subsequent analysis by Western intelligence indicated that the system was now fully road mobile.

The Shahab-3 is reportedly a modified Chinese Scud B or Scud C. The use of Chinese versus Russian technology is not new to the Iranians and was reported by Defense & Foreign Affairs in 1997," The PRC has long been involved in the Iranian missile programs.

Since February 1991, Iran has been running a production line for Scud-Bs, using basic production systems from the DPRK and special sub-systems provided by the PRC. Since the Summer of that year, PRC and North Korean experts have been working on major, advanced SSM development and production facilities in Isfahan. The PRC also sold Iran technology for the development of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, including critical solid-fuel technology."

Due to the secrecy of the Iranian missile development program, specifics on the Shahab-3 are to be considered estimates based upon Western intelligence reporting. The missile is believed to be 16.0 m long, with a body diameter of 1.32 m and a launch weight of 16,250 kg [payload 1,200 kg, with a separating warhead] encased in a re-entry vehicle.

Analysis indicates that the warhead is believed to be HE, submunitions or chemical with a weight of 800 kg. An Israeli report suggested that Iran was developing a nuclear warhead for the Shahab-3 missile, but this remains unconfirmed [as is a report concerning a proposed biological warhead], however numerous reports indicate that nuclear warhead is probably in development. There are also disputing reports that indicate different details [length is 15.2 m, body diameter 1.25 m, and the launch weight 15,400 kg [With a payload weight is 750 kg].

A single-stage liquid-propellant system and that this uses IRFNA and kerosene provides thrust for the Shahab-3 [12,300 kg of propellants and a burn time of 100 seconds]. The Shahab-3 is powered by a single motor is fed by a turbopump. Four graphite vanes in the exhaust nozzles control the missile during the boost phase. Guidance is inertial, reports indicate that the missile will not be very accurate, most probably with a 2,500 m CEP [US. UK and French intelligence reports dispute this and indicate a CEP of nearer 4,000 m]. The minimum range is expected to be around 400 km and the maximum range 1,300 km.

Analysis indicates that Iran uses several different types for its Scud B and Scud C missiles, including Russian MAZ 543 TELs, German Mercedes Benz tractor trailer combinations. Reports in September 1998, indicate Iran has converted some IVECO 320-45WTM or Mercedes Benz 3850AS tank transporters into TEL vehicles for the Shahab-3.

Current Operational Status: Under operational control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).



Length: 16.0 m.

Diameter: 1.32 m.

Launch Weight: 16,250 kg.

Payload/Weight: 1,200 kg.

Payload Type: Conventional HE, Chemical, Submunitions, (in development) Nuclear, (unconfirmed) Biological.

Propulsion: Single-stage liquid-propellant system.

Fuel: IRFNA.

Oxidizer: Kerosene.

Range: 1,300+ km.


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  2. Iran Section, Defense & Foreign Affairs Handbook, 15th Edition. Alexandria, Virginia, 2002: International Strategic Studies Association.
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