Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program

Ballistic missiles–armaments that achieve suborbital spaceflight to hit their targets thousands of miles away–have been stockpiled in Iran since the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Iran maintained a healthy fleet of combat aircraft under the shah, but after 1979, relations with the West frayed and access to technologies needed to maintain its air force dried up. According to a 2005 report published by the British-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Tehran’s program was launched in part to make up for these deficiencies. Dinshaw Mistry, author of Containing Missile Proliferation, writes that Iran’s missile program evolved in several phases (Arms Control Association). Beginning in the mid-1980s, as Iraqi missiles rained down on Iranian cities, Iran purchased short-range Scud missiles from North Korea. Steven A. Hildreth, a missile defense specialist with the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan U.S.-funded agency, assesses that Iran’s ballistic missile program was in full development by the mid-1980s (PDF), and during the Iran-Iraq War, “reportedly launched more than 600 ballistic missiles.” By 1998, Iran had built and tested a medium-range missile, the Shahab-3, a single-stage liquid-fueled missile modeled after the North Korean Nodong. Since then, Iran has embarked on a number of other missile projects, with advances in solid-fuel and multistage missile systems, theoretically enhancing survivability on the ground and range in fl… >>>

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