The Shahab-3 (Persian: شهاب-۳, meaning "Meteor-3") is a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) developed by Iran and based on the Nodong-1. An early variant could fly ; they can now reach . It was tested from 1998 to 2003 and added to the military arsenal on July 7, 2003, with an official unveiling by Ayatollah Khamenei on July 20.
The forerunners to this missile include the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2. The then-Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Shamkhani has denied that Iran plans to develop a Shahab-4. Some successors to the Shahab have longer range and are also more maneuverable.
Operating under the Sanam Industrial Group (Department 140), which is part of the Defense Industries Organization of Iran, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), with aid from at least three Russian military enterprises, led the development of the Shahab missile.
The Shahab-3B differs from the basic production variant. It has improvements to its guidance system and warhead, a few small changes on the missile body, and a new re-entry vehicle whose terminal guidance system and rocket-nozzle steering method are completely different from the Shahab-3A's spin-stabilized re-entry vehicle.
The new re-entry vehicle uses a triconic aeroshell geometry (or 'baby bottle' design) which improves the overall lift to drag ratio for the re-entry vehicle. This allows greater range maneuverability which can result in better precision. The triconic design also reduces the overall size of the warhead from an estimated to .
The rocket-nozzle control system allows the missile to change its trajectory several times during re-entry and even terminal phase, effectively preventing pre-calculated intercept points of radar systems - which is a method nearly all ABM systems use these days. As a high-speed ballistic missile and pre-mission fueling capability, the Shahab-3 has an extremely short launch/impact time ratio. This means that the INS/gyroscope guidance would also remain relatively accurate until impact (important, given the fact that the gyroscopes tend to become inaccurate the longer the flight lasts). The CEP is estimated to be at or less. However, the accuracy of the missile is largely speculative and cannot be confidently predicted for wartime situations.
These improvements would greatly increase the Shahab-3B's survivability against ABM systems such as Israel's Arrow-2 as well as being used for precision attacks against high value targets such as command, control and communications centres.
Shahab-3C & D
Little is known about Shahab-3C and Shahab-3D. From what can be gathered, the missiles have an improved precision, navigation system, and a longer range. The missiles were indigenously developed, and are being mass produced.
History and tests
The Shahab-3 was first seen in public on September 25
, in Azadi Square
in a parade held to commemorate the Iranian Sacred Defence Week
Iran has conducted at least six test flights of the Shahab 3. During the first one, in July 1998, the missile reportedly exploded in mid-air during the latter portion of its flight; U.S. officials wondered whether the test was a failure or the explosion was intentional. A second, successful test took place in July 2000. In September 2000, Iran conducted a third test, in which the missile reportedly exploded shortly after launch. In May 2002, Iran conducted another successful test, leading then-Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani to say the test improved the Shahab-3's "power and accuracy." Another successful test reportedly occurred in July 2002. On July 7, 2003, the foreign ministry spokesman said that Iran had completed a final test of the Shahab 3 "a few weeks ago" that was "the final test before delivering the missile to the armed forces," according to a New York Times report.
On November 9, 2004, Shamkhani said Iran could mass-produce the missile.
On November 2, 2006, Iran fired unarmed missiles to begin 10 days of military war games. Iranian state television reported "dozens of missiles were fired including Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missiles. The missiles had ranges from to up to ...Iranian experts have made some changes to Shahab-3 missiles installing cluster warheads in them with the capacity to carry 1,400 bombs." These launches come after some United States-led military exercises in the Persian Gulf on October 30, 2006, meant to train for blocking the transport of weapons of mass destruction.
On July 8 2008, Iran test fired a non-upgraded version of the Shahab-3 as one of 9 medium- and long-range missiles launched as part of the Great Prophet III exercise, within a few weeks of a recently concluded military exercise by Israel.
Other missiles fired include the surface-to-surface Fateh-110 and Zelzal missiles. Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps air and naval units conducted these tests in a desert location. Air Force commander Hossein Salami advised that Iran was ready to retaliate to military threats, saying "We warn the enemies who intend to threaten us with military exercises and empty psychological operations that our hand will always be on the trigger and our missiles will always be ready to launch.
One day later, on July 9 2008, Iran once-again fired a version of the Shahab-3, amongst other missiles, which officials have said has a range of 1,250 miles and is armed with a 1-ton conventional warhead. These tests were conducted at the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to shut down traffic into if it is attacked. Independent national security webblog, ArmsControlWonk.com, analyzed Iranian launch footage and concluded that Iranian claims of testing an upgraded Shahab missile were unfounded. A senior Republican Guard commander said Iran would maintain security in the Strait of Hormuz and the larger Gulf. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, chief of the Guards' joint staff, called the missile tests a "defensive measure against invasions." He also said, Iran will not jeopardize the interests of neighboring countries. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the French news agency Agence France-Presse which published pictures from the missile test reported that "Iran had apparently doctored photographs of missile test-firings and exaggerated the capabilities of the weapons" and that an additional missile was added by photoshop to cover up a failed launch.
In a sign of commercial fallout from the second missile test in two days, the French oil company Total S.A. announced the conditions were not right to invest in Iran as major oil companies have been under increasing political pressure from the United States and its allies over their activities in Iran amid mounting tensions over Iran's nuclear program.
To ratchet up the pressure further, Israel also showed off its latest spy plane in what is seen as a display of strength in response to Iranian war games (missile tests).
The test on 8 July 2008
caused more indignation around the world as the case for war is being ratcheted up on both sides, despite denials.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier
said: "These missile tests can only reinforce the concerns of the international community at a time when Iran is separately developing a nuclear program."
German government spokesman Thomas Steg
urged Tehran to halt "all form of saber rattling." He added that since top world powers dealing with Iran's nuclear program had made a "gesture of goodwill" by offering incentives last month in return for Iran suspending uranium enrichment activities, "It is regrettable that Iran has responded to this gesture of the international community with a bad-will gesture."
Israeli parliamentarian, Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim
said: "I suggest Israel will not talk, and Israel should prepare itself to do what is needed to do."
Government spokesman Avi Pazner said: "We are very concerned, especially since we know that Iran is seeking to acquire the nuclear weapon.
In like manner a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry
said the combination of nuclear weapons and delivery systems with "extremist jihadist ideology" can't be ignored.
, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
, said: “The Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic missile program must be of grave concern to the entire international community.”
Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Kisliak
said: "The signal that we have received in essence is that Iran is ready for negotiations. Today, all the conditions are there to begin a serious conversation with Iran. We must sit down at the negotiating table with our Iranian colleagues and examine all the possibilities."
The Foreign Office
described the test-firing as "unwelcome and mistimed." "We have to question why does Iran need such long-range missiles? What we have seen just underlines the need for Iran to comply with its international obligations on the nuclear issue."
A senior US state department official said the launch was "provocative".
US Under-secretary of State William Burns
said that thanks to UN sanctions, Iran's real progress on its nuclear program had been "modest", despite its sabre-rattling. He went on to add that "We view force as an option that is on the table but a last resort."
Both the presumptive nominees got in on the condemnations as well. Describing Iran as a "great threat", the Democratic challenger, Barack Obama, called for tougher sanctions while his Republican rival, John McCain, said the test demonstrated the need for effective missile defence.
Secretary of State
, said this was "evidence that the missile threat is not an imaginary one." Adding, "It's time for Iranians to stop violating their Security Council obligations and start fulfilling them.
deputy spokesman Adam Ereli
said, despite the lack of evidence on the technical details, that the test firing "demonstrates that Iran has a very active and aggressive military program under way." This includes "efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, as well as delivery systems. I think Iran's military posture, military development effort, is of concern to the international community. [Evidence] is the kind of consensus you're seeing with regard to their nuclear program as well as other nonproliferation concerns."
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates
said: "This certainly addresses the doubts raised by the Russians that the Iranians won't have a longer range ballistic missile for 10 to 20 years. The fact is they just tested a missile that has a pretty extended range. So, my view, in the first instance, is we've been saying, as we've talked about missile defense in Europe, that there is a real threat. And it seems to me that the test this morning underscores that." Adding, "There is a lot of signaling going on. But I think everybody recognizes what the consequences of any kind of a conflict would be. And I will tell you that this government is working hard to make sure that the diplomatic and economic approach to dealing with Iran, and trying to get the Iranian government to change its policies is the strategy and is the approach that continues to dominate."
US President George W. Bush
said: "There is common agreement that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon or the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon. The reason there's common agreement is because the Iranian government with such a weapon as it's now constituted would pose a serious threat to world security."
, deputy White House press secretary
, said in a statement at the Group of 8 meeting in Japan that Iran's development of ballistic missiles was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. "The Iranian regime only furthers the isolation of the Iranian people from the international community when it engages in this sort of activity. [Iran ought to] refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world." Adding, "The Iranians should stop the development of ballistic missiles which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon immediately.
The tests were seen widely as a response to Israeli aerial war games staged earlier in the month. Ali Shirazi, representative of the Revolutionary Guards naval forces
said, warned that Iran would "set fire" to Israel and the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf as its first response to any pre-emptive strike by America or Israel over its nuclear program.
Brig. Gen. Hoseyn Salami
, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards
' air force
, said: "Our missiles are ready for shooting at any place and any time, quickly and with accuracy." He also made the statement that "enemy targets are under surveillance." Speaking on a visit to Malaysia on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
dismissed the possibility of an attack by the US or Israel as a "joke."
Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, chief of the Guards' joint staff, called the missile tests a "defensive measure against invasions." He also said,
Iran will not jeopardize the interests of neighboring countries.