U.S. intelligence agencies recently detected Iran conducting a static ground test of a large rocket motor that could be used for a future intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to U.S. officials.
Disclosure of the recent rocket engine test comes as Congress is prodding the Obama administration to deploy a third ground-based missile defense interceptor base on the U.S. East Coast.
“This engine could be used for an ICBM,” said one official familiar with the intelligence reports of the test.
The Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on the Iranian military said the Iranians are continuing to build missiles that can reach Israel and Eastern Europe.
“Iran may be technically capable of flight testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015,” the report said.
It also stated that Iran’s development of space launchers would assist in building ICBMs.
“Since 2008, Iran has launched multistage space launch vehicles that could serve as a test bed for developing long-range ballistic missile technologies,” the report said.
A recent International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear programs said the agency has questions about Iran’s work on a nuclear payload for a missile.
The House version of the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill provides funding for development of an East Coast missile defense site to counter Iranian long-range missiles.
The East Coast site, possibly to be built at military bases in New York or New England, would complement two current missile defense interceptor bases in the western United States, at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Locations mentioned for the site include the Army’s Fort Drum, New York, base, the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, and a site in Caribou, Maine.
Michael Elleman, a former U.N. weapons inspector and author of the book Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities, stated in a recent article that the Iranian space program is critical in building powerful booster rockets and other skills that could be used in developing longer range missiles, including ICBMs.
The main space launcher is the Safir that in 2009 launched an Iranian satellite into space. “It demonstrated a new sophistication in multistage separation and propulsion systems,” Elleman stated in an article published by the U.S. Institute of Peace.
A National Research Council study made public last year on U.S. missile defense efforts stated that an Iranian ICBM with a liquid fuel rocket motor launched from central Iran to the U.S. East Coast would burn for about 250 seconds during its initial “boost-phase” and a total flight time is about 40 minutes.
A solid-fuel Iranian ICBM launched from the same location would burn for 180 seconds during boost phase.
The report recommended building an additional missile defense interceptor site in the continental United States to counter the missile threat likely to emerge from North Korea or Iran over the next several decades.
A 2008 State Department cable said: “Tehran could attempt to develop and test much of this [long-range] missile technology under the guise of a space program.”
Full article: Iran ICBM Advances — Iran conducts test of new rocket motor with ICBM capability (Washington Free Beacon)