Sunday, May 24, 2009

Canvassing or breaktrough?

On Wednesday, May 20, Iran tested its new Sajil-2 MRBM. Teheran touts the missile to be an "advanced technology" missile capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf. If the assumptions are true that the Sajil-2 has a range of 2,000km, the missile would indeed easily bring these targets into range.

An unnamed U.S. government official said that the Sajil-2 is the longest-range solid-propellant missile Iran has launched so far, raising concerns about the sophistication of Tehran's missile program. Many analysts said the launch of the solid-fuel Sajil-2 was significant because such missiles are more accurate than liquid fuel missiles of similar range, such as Iran's Shahab-3. The Sajil-2 differs from the Sajil which was tested last in November 2008 because it "is equipped with a new navigation system as well as precise and sophisticated sensors," according to Iran's official news agency. U.S. missile tracking systems have confirmed the Sajil-2's precision and other advanced capabilities. Until now, the Americans and Israelis were confident that insurmountable technical difficulties prevented Iran's missile industry from achieving an accurate guidance system but this assumption was nullified by the Sajil-2 launch.

It seems that Iran got a little help from some friends: Israeli security analysts stated that the missile is similar to a model used by Pakistan, suggesting that Islamabad might be assisting Tehran in its weapons program.

However, Charles Vick, a senior technical analyst for, is "not all that impressed" by the test. "It's just another test that confirms they've got the system that was operational last summer.

The Time writes that Iran's missile test may have less to do with advancing its military capability than with getting a last word in on Monday's conversation between President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Besides that it is also a form of canvassing of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is on the election campaign trail.

Quite timely, the East-West Institute published a joint U.S.-Russian threat assessment on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Make sure to take a look at Martin Senn’s Arms Control Blog to get the content in a nutshell. At the same time, the Jerusalem Post came up with its own assessments how many missiles Iran has and will have in the near future: Iran is about to mass produce long-range missiles.

This of course has to be taken with a big grain of salt... like almost every piece of news from the Middle East.

Picture © AFG / Getty

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Air-launched BrahMos in 2010

The BrahMos has already been inducted by the Indian Army and the Navy. While the Navy version was the first to be inducted in 2006, the Army ordered $2 billion worth of land-based BrahMos missiles last month. Now increased efforts are being made to develop the air-launched version.

Domain-B refers to reports which quote unidentified ministry of defense officials as saying that the modification work on the aircraft is expected to be complete by early 2010, though no deadlines have been set.

The aerial version of the BrahMos will be shorter in length than the standard land or marine versions and will have the capability to auto-launch towards the target after being released from the aircraft by the pilot. It will be integrated on Ilyushin Il-38 maritime surveillance planes and the Su-30 MKI. India has already dispatched two of its Sukhois to Russia for modification of the aircraft's fuselage so that they will be able to carry the BrahMos.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

DPRK's Taepodong 2 test a success

Immediately after North Korea's trial launch last month discussions started whether the launch was successful or not. According to a Japanese Defense Ministry report released on Friday, the trial demonstrated an improvement in the country's long-range missile capability in the years since Pyongyang’s last test. The report predicts that the DPRK would probably be able to continue increasing the reach of its missiles, which should grow more accurate and capable of delivering heavier payloads. The Asahi Shimbun reported that the ballistic missile launch in April was likely aided by materials and technology from third countries.

Prior to the April-test the question came up whether Japan or the United States might (try to) shoot down the Taepodong 2 missile. This did not happen. But U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed yesterday for the first time that the United States has 30 ground-based interceptors specifically focused on defending against missile launches from North Korea. Earlier plans to increase the number of interceptors to 44 were at least temporarily shelved because there is – according to Gates – no immediate need. Evil to him who evil thinks, it is certainly a pure coincidence that this information was publicized on the very same day on which Gates explained plans to cut the budget for a missile shield system.

Even in light of the recent test, some experts do not consider Pyongyang to be the main threat. David Kay, former chief nuclear weapons inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency said that the main threat is "the transfer of that technology to others, particularly the Iranians. North Korea has sold and traded every weapon it's ever been able to produce with others. It's the main supplier to the Iranians of missile technology. And the Iranians are quite capable of improving, with foreign assistance, whatever they get from North Korea, they've shown that they can do this. So you do worry about their missiles being improved by the Iranians."

Update: Geoffrey over at the Arms Control Wonk published some ideas 'Why did the 2006 launch fail'

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Recently on eBay

We have a broad variety of nonproliferation instruments, of export controls and of counter proliferation efforts. But still there are times when you ask yourself ‘How could this happen’. Have you recently taken a look at the things offered on eBay?

A British telecommunications firm uncovered launch procedures for the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system on a used hard drive purchased on eBay, the London Independent reported today.
This is off-topic but Cliff Burns from the Export Law Blog wrote that another ebayed hard-drive contained security logs from the German Embassy in Paris. It seems that there is a increased need to spread a data protection / destruction manual...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Missile Defense Budget plans

President Obama released the federal budget for 2010 on Thursday, May 7, and it holds significant changes for the budget year that begins on October 1. An official summary provides the following information:

The fiscal 2010 budget will reduce the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) program by $1.2 billion, leaving a fiscal 2010 request of $7.8 billion for MDA:
· The program will be restructured to focus on the rogue state and theater missile threat.
· Ground-based interceptors in Alaska will not be increased as planned, but research and development will be funded to improve existing capabilities to defend against long-range rogue missile threats.
· The second airborne laser prototype aircraft will be canceled due to affordability and technology problems, keeping the existing aircraft as a technology demonstration effort.
· The Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program will be terminated because of significant technical challenges.
Let’s expand on the first point: this shifting focus includes a move away from boost-phase intercept programs and thereby belying earlier calls for the boost-phase which was regarded to be essential to defend America. The new policy envisages intercepts during the ascent-phase. The ascent phase starts after powered flight, but before a ballistic missile deploys decoys or executes maneuvers to avoid being shot down in the post-boost-phase of its flight. MDA’s Executive Director Rear Admiral David Altwegg said that the ascent phase intercepts are "significantly less challenging […] with the technologies now available." He continued: "Our studies tell us that this ascent-phase interceptor effort will provide the margin of superiority needed and replace boost-phase as we now know it."

Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, laid out that the development of ascent and upper boost-phase missile defense capabilities will require SM3/ AEGIS development, enhanced THAAD capability, and deploying a Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) constellation.

This is reflected in the new budget: the spending on the THAAD system will rise from $882 million to $1.12 billion and the sea-based equivalent, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, will have a budget which is increased by more than 50%, from the current $1.17 billion to $1.86 billion. Some of this money will be channeled from the PAC-3 program, which will be reduced by roughly 60% to $400 million.

The change – and the included cuts – already stirred up emotions. Representative Parker Griffith (D-Ala.) said in a statement. “This budget does not reflect the priorities of North Alabama and fails to provide clear support for national missile defense that is necessary to protect ourselves and our international allies." What a clear set of priorities, North Alabama first, (inter)national security second.

While we wait and see what other reactions come up, we can consider to found a “Hooterville citizens for missile defense” campaign to support representative Parker.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Missile Test Calendar 2009


01/15 USASLAM ER (Standoff Land Attack Missle Expanded Response)



03/17 USATHAAD Interceptor
03/19 RussiaALCM
03/25 USAPAC-3 - failure
03/29 IndiaBrahMos Block II


04/10 RussiaTopol, ICBM
04/05 DPRKTaepodong-2, ICBM (?) - failure
04/07 IsraelArrow 2
04/15 IndiaPrithvi-II, nuclear-capable SRBM









Missile Test Calendar 2009

Dear readers,
I hope you had a nice Labor Day weekend (those of you who celebrated Labor Day on Friday). I laboriously tried cover up with the missing test launches and set up the announced Missile Test Calendar 2009 page. It certainly contains several gaps which I will hopefully be able to fill in the future. Any hints are highly appreciated.