'Iran developing massive launch site'

North Korea reportedly assisting Teheran in building launch pad for new missile.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
March 6, 2010 01:46
2 minute read.
Iran's long-range Simorgh missile

simorgh 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday.

The new launcher, constructed near an existing rocket base in the Semnan province east of Teheran, is visible in satellite imagery, according to the report.

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The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.

Both the missile and the launch pad, which according to Jane’s is large enough to accommodate it, point to cooperation from Pyongyang.

Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, said shortly after the unveiling of the Simorgh that the rocket is a worrisome development since the missile could one day be adapted into an ICBM, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

After analyzing images of the missile, Inbar said that it appeared to currently be powered by liquid fuel, but could one day be configured to work with a solid fuel propellant, a technology that the Iranians have already begun using in their Sajil ballistic missile, which has a range of around 2,500 km.

"This is a major technological breakthrough and could mean that the Iranians are on their way to obtaining an ICBM," he said.



Israel and other Western countries suspect that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

In August 2009, President Shimon Peres told his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev during a visit to Moscow “The fact that Iran is investing billions of dollars in the development of long-range missiles, in parallel to its nuclear project, is clear indication of its intent.”
The president said there would be no point for any country to develop missiles capable of reaching targets so far and then loading them with conventional warheads.

Evoking Holocaust imagery during the meeting with Medvedev, Peres likened an Iranian nuclear bomb to a “flying death camp.”

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report

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