Iran announced the firing of five new types of homemade shore-to-sea and sea-to-sea missiles Sunday, April 25 on the third and last day of its "Great Prophet 5" maneuvers in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz. The Revolutionary Guards Navy's commander of the exercise claimed all five were fired and all struck a single target simultaneously – a major feat for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Only two of the missiles tested were identified as Noor (Light) and Nasr (Victory) missiles. The third was described as having a range of 300 kilometers, but given no name.
However, American intelligence sources, working from US satellite and aerial recon which photographed the entire exercise, say that none of the five "new" missiles was new; they were all old weapons which have been around for a long time and were simply repainted with new colors and given new names. An attempt was made to upgrade some of them, but these alterations were described as "minor and unimportant" in terms of their operational capabilities.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources reports that US and Israeli intelligence analysts decided to take a closer look at Iran's "successfully" tested missiles after an excited Iranian broadcaster described the huge missiles on display on giant trucks at a military parade in Tehran on April 18 as "more advanced than the Russian S-300 interceptor" which Moscow continues to withhold from Tehran. The announcer said the Islamic Republic no longer needs Russian favors since it is capable of manufacturing its own superior product.
But then, a sharp examination of the vaunted missiles trundling by revealed cardboard cones or empty canisters freshly painted in military colors.
The Shehab-3 ballistic missile is stuck in its early development
An American missile expert who has been monitoring the Iranian nuclear program told DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources that not since 1960s, when Gemal Abdel Nasser's Egyptian Army was wont to parade fake weapons, has any power gone in for displaying phony weapons – that is until the Islamic Republic of Iran tried this out today.
The Shihab-3 ballistic missiles are another case in point. Vaunted by Tehran as its weapon of choice for striking back at US forces and Israel if attacked, and designated to carry Iran's first nuclear warheads, photos taken in the last two years of the Shihab-3 in parades, war games and at Iranian military facilities, reveal long delays in development. Their domestic industry has not managed to produce a warhead capable of carrying more than a half-ton to one-ton of explosives.
US intelligence analysts rechecked this finding with comparisons of the Shehab-3 displayed farther back than two years, only to find that the program is essentially "running in place."
According to our Washington sources, Iran owes its lack of progress primarily to Beijing's promise to President George W. Bush, extended for President Barack Obama, to withhold from Iran advanced Chinese technology for advanced ballistic and medium range missiles. Iran has proved unequal to the task of filling the gap on its own and has to be satisfied with Chinese short-range missile data.
So how has Iran come up with solid-fuel missiles?
But China is only one source, our military sources note: North Korea, whose relations with Iran are kept under tight wraps, is a major supplier of missiles and technology, so too are the black markets in arms trade of the former Soviet republics.
In 2001, Ukraine exported to Iran a dozen 18 x 55 cruise missiles (also known as kh-55 or AS-15) complete with ready-made nuclear warhead casings. The X-55 has a range of 3,000 kilometers.
So, is Tehran running a clandestine parallel program for developing and manufacturing missiles which are never displayed in public parades or war games?
None of the Western officials tracking the Iranian missile program can answer this with much confidence.
But clearly, Tehran is not putting all its ballistic achievements on show. It is a fact that Iran has in the past two years produced missiles that run on solid fuel, such as the Samen-Ghadr-10-1 tactical solid propellant ballistic missile, which has a range of 1,000 kilometers; the Sejil, a 2-stage missile with a range of 2,000-2,500 kilometers; and the Ghadr-110A/Ashura, with a range of 3,500 kilometers.
On February 3, Iran's Kavoshgar-3 boosted into earth orbit a space capsule carrying a mouse, two turtles and some worms.
It is therefore clear that not all is what it seems in Iran's missile industry.