Explosion may have hit IRGC missile base in west Tehran - report

After an explosion was heard in western Tehran, satellite imagery seemed to show damage to an IRGC missile base.

 An Iranian missile is displayed during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022. (photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
An Iranian missile is displayed during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022.

An explosion was heard in western Tehran early on Saturday morning, with initial reports and satellite imagery indicating that a missile base belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was attacked.

Early Saturday morning, social media users in Iran reported hearing a large explosion in western Tehran with some reporting that they had seen a flash from a blast. Some other users reported seeing a fighter jet flying low over the city, raising speculation that the "explosion" heard was just a sonic boom.

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, a researcher at the Global Institute for Democracy and Strategic Studies think tank and a former member of an Iranian militia called Ansar-e Hezbollah, shared a photo reportedly from the area where he said the light of an explosion was seen.

Later on Saturday and on Sunday, unconfirmed reports began spreading largely on social media and among Iranian opposition sources that the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group missile base in western Tehran, which was last attacked in September of last year, had been attacked yet again.

On Sunday, the Intelli Times intelligence blog shared satellite imagery showing what appeared to be damage to the roof of a structure in the Shahid Hemmat base which had been struck in the September incident.

On Saturday, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas cited "well-informed Iranian sources" claiming that the Shahid Hemmat base was seemingly attacked by drones on Friday night. According to the report, drones launched from within Iran not far from the base hit the site.

Al-Qabas added that new tests of ballistic missile engines had recently been conducted at the base.

Iranian state media and Iranian officials had not referred to, confirmed or denied the reports as of Monday afternoon.

Second explosion to hit the IRGC missile base in a year

On September 27, 2021, an explosion was reported at the Shahid Hemmat base, with ImageSat International publishing satellite imagery showing damage to a structure at the site. Two IRGC employees were killed and another was injured in the incident, referred to as a "fire" by Iranian media.

In December, The New York Times reported based on "people briefed on the actions" that Israel had consulted with the US before striking the missile base in September.

The Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group has been targeted by US sanctions in the past, with the US Department of the Treasury calling the group "Iran’s primary developer of liquid propelled missiles."

Israeli campaign against Iran intensifying

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported citing "people familiar with the effort" that Israel was intensifying its campaign of covert operations to thwart Iran's nuclear, missile and drone programs.

People briefed on the Israeli strikes told WSJ that Israel has been using small drones to hit Iranian nuclear facilities and an Iranian drone base.

On Monday, IRGC commander Hassani Ahangar told Iranian media that the death of an Iranian Defense Ministry engineer at a site in Parchin in May 2021 was caused by "industrial sabotage."

The alleged attack on the Shahid Hemmat base comes just days after Iran announced that it was preparing to conduct a test launch of its Zuljanah solid-fuel satellite carrier rocket.

Seyed Ahmad Hosseini, a spokesperson for the Iranian Defense Ministry, told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that three test launches of the Zuljanah rocket had been planned, with one test launch already having taken place last year and two more test launches planned. Iranian media called the test launch last year “successful.”

The Zuljanah is a three-stage rocket that uses both solid and liquid fuel engines. The rocket is able to carry cargo weighing up to 220 kg and reach a height of 500 km, according to Hosseini.

Shortly before the Defense Ministry's announcement, The Intel Lab and IIS research associate John Krzyzaniak published an analysis of satellite imagery, showing possible preparations for a satellite launch at the Imam Khomeini Space Center near Semnan, Iran.

Just days before that, the Iranian Defense Ministry announced the “martyrdom” of Iranian aerospace scientist Mohammad Abdous during an unspecified “mission” in the Semnan province. The Saudi-backed television station Iran International claimed that Abdous had been working on “building and developing weapons for Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

While Iran does not currently have ballistic missiles that can reach much of Europe, the solid propellant stages used by the Zuljanah could be used in a future ICBM to deliver payloads of about 500 kg to ranges of at least 4,000 km - far enough to reach all of Europe - if Iranian officials decide to move forward with the development of such a weapon, according to the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS).

This makes the Zuljanah a “candidate precursor” for an ICBM that could hit core members of the European Union.