Lauren Gelfand and Alon Ben-David – Janes November 14, 2008
Iran announced on 12 November that it had test-fired a new medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) with a stated range of 2,000 km.
The missile, a two-stage solid-fuel system known as Sajil, was launched from a site in western Iran near the Iraq border towards a target 800 km away, according to Western intelligence sources. As Jane's went to press it was still unknown whether the launch was completely successful, although it appeared that the separation marking the two stages did occur.
"This is a whole new missile," Uzi Rubin, former director of Israel's Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation, told Jane's . "Unlike other Iranian missiles, the Sajil bears no resemblance to any North Korean, Russian, Chinese or Pakistani [missile technology]. It demonstrates a significant leap in Iran's missile capabilities.
"Regardless of the success of the test, this missile places Iran in the realm of multiple-stage missiles, which means that they are on the way to having intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities," he added.
In statements released by state media, Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Mustafa Mohammad Najjar hailed the launch of the Sajil missile as "very fast", adding that it would be easy to produce. Tehran's Al-Alam television reported that the new missile utilises "composite solid-propellant fuel" and that unlike the Shahab-3 MRBM, which is launched only vertically, the Sajil could be launched "at a variable angle".
Video released by Iranian state media clearly shows a two-stage missile with a guidance system on the second stage and a triconic re-entry vehicle identical to that of the Shahab-3. However, the Sajil's diameter appears greater than the 1.25 m of the Shahab. Intelligence sources consider the Sajil to be a new name for Iran's Ashura MRBM, which failed to deploy its second stage in an unsuccessful launch in November 2007.
With a purported range of 2,000 km, the Sajil brings Moscow, Athens and southern Italy within striking distance from Iran. It is this kind of threat that has spurred the US development of a missile defence shield in Europe - most recently seen with the planned placement of interceptors in Poland - despite objections from Russia.
"This is a growing threat and we need to be able to deal with future missile attacks from Iran," said US State Department spokesperson Robert Wood. "This is something of concern to the international community, and I'm including Russia in the international community here. And so we think missile defence is in the interests of not only the United States and its European allies, but also Russia."
Last updated 16/02/2009