Iran’s Newest Old Missiles (updated)

So, remember the news a couple of weeks ago that Iran was claiming to have built its own version of the S-300 SAM. Well, we were skeptical about the Iranian ability to develop such a weapon. Especially since Tehran was so keen to buy that missile from Russia until the Kremlin killed the deal earlier this year.

Now, it appears Iran has actually got a hold of some serious offensive rocketry.  Apparently, Tehran has purchased 19 land-launched missiles from North Korea that are based on the Soviet R-27 missile — which was designed as a submarine launched nuclear missile in the 1960s and 1970s.

From The New York Times’ coverage of the latest Wikileaks release:

The North Korean version of the advanced missile, known as the BM-25, could carry a nuclear warhead. Many experts say that Iran remains some distance from obtaining a nuclear warhead, especially one small enough to fit atop a missile, though they believe that it has worked hard to do so.

Still, the BM-25 would be a significant step up for Iran.

Today, the maximum range of Iran’s known ballistic missiles is roughly 1,200 miles, according to experts. That means they could reach targets throughout the Middle East, including Israel, as well as all of Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe.

The range of the Russian R-27, launched from a submarine, was said to be up to 1,500 miles.

Rocket scientists say the BM-25 is longer and heavier, and carries more fuel, giving it a range of up to 2,000 miles. If fired from Iran, that range, in theory, would let its warheads reach targets as far away as Western Europe, including Berlin. If fired northwestward, the warheads could easily reach Moscow.

A range of 2,000 miles is considered medium or intermediate. Traditionally, the United States has defined long-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles as having ranges greater than 3,400 miles.

The fuel for the advanced engines goes by the tongue-twisting name of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, according to the secret cables. It is a highly toxic, volatile clear liquid with a sharp, fishy smell.

Yes, this may be a big leap ahead for the Middle Eastern country’s ability to reach out and touch its enemies, but don’t forget, the R-27 is an old design that was retired by the Soviets in the 1980s.

This is the same kind of missile that famously blew up in the launch tube of a Soviet sub in 1986. Whoops.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not deadly to actual enemies. Our Minuteman III ICBMs came online before the R-27 was introduced and they remain one of the U.S.’ primary nuclear weapons.

You have to wonder what impact, if any, this will have on NATO’s ability to persuade Russia to support the U.S.-led European missile defense shield? Oh, and that missile shield is set to be in place by 2020. Looks like it could be needed a little sooner.

It appears these missiles actually did have an impact on Russia’s willingness to get tougher on Iran via economic sanctions.

Here’s an interesting account in the Times of how the revelation that Tehran had missiles capable of hitting Moscow brought the Kremlin around:

Russia is deeply skeptical that Iran has obtained the advanced missiles, or that their North Korean version, called the BM-25, even exists. “For Russia, the BM-25 is a mysterious missile,” a Russian official said. (That argument was dealt a blow last month, when North Korea rolled out what some experts identified as those very missiles in a military parade.)

Whatever the dynamic, Mr. Obama had removed the burr under the Russians’ saddle, and in January 2010, one cable reported, a senior Russian official “indicated Russia’s willingness to move to the pressure track.”

The cables obtained by WikiLeaks end in February 2010, before the last-minute maneuvering that led to a fourth round of Security Council sanctions and even stiffer measures — imposed by the United States, the Europeans, Australia and Japan — that experts say are beginning to pinch Iran’s economy. But while Mr. Ahmadinejad has recently offered to resume nuclear negotiations, the cables underscore the extent to which Iran’s true intentions remain a mystery.

As Crown Prince bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi put it in one cable: “Any culture that is patient and focused enough to spend years working on a single carpet is capable of waiting years and even decades to achieve even greater goals.” His greatest worry, he said, “is not how much we know about Iran, but how much we don’t.”

  • chaos0xomega

    I could have sworn that the North Korean attempts at developing a ballistic missile were all met with failure (as evidenced by the string of failed tests).

  • JOhn Moore

    Just today I read about that wikileaks saying that they were transported through our supposed ally CH. Way to go CH shows just how responsible a player you really are.

  • Charley

    CH= Switzerland? How about Iceland hosting the site? Lots of players not making the right decisions, from the informant who stole the info, to various vetted / unvetted media outlets for publishing classified data, to countries allowing their transportation / telecom infrastructure to support WikiLeaks.

    • JOhn Moore

      CH= Switzerland? Did I say domain or was I refering to a county, Common sense should tell u that, perhaps you were trying to be funny but came across as an idiot?

  • joe

    You know what they say…”Whats old is new again”

    Man, I got to stop watching that “American Pickers” Show…

  • David

    Iran has every right to defend itself from it’s neighbors(Israel) who have had nukes for decades. If I was Iran and had Israel and the US as enemies I would get nukes ASAP too.
    Maybe if Israel didn’t get nukes first we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    • Joe Schmoe


      Also, even if Israel does have nuclear weapons, they have shown themselves to be responsible and not threatening peaceful neighbors with total annihilation. Compare that to Iran who repeatedly threaten Israel with nuclear annihilation.

      And Israel is nowhere near Iran or is it a threat to Iran. Name me the last time Israel has attacked Iran…

    • Belesari

      “Maybe if Israel didn’t get nukes first we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

      David that is one of the stupidest post i’ve seen yet. Seriously? And israel has had the power to obliterate Iran for decades yet they dont make threats about genecide….

      Your not Iran. Iran isnt some place just trying to sing kumbiya and smoke week while doing its hippie thing. Its one of the most opressive, brutal regimes on the planet. It exports terrorist groups like Hezzbollah and Hamas. Supplies weapons that are used daily on our troops in afghanistan and Iraq as well as our allies.

      So you know what? Screw Iran. There is a difference between a democratic nation that has contributed hugely to science and technology that has helped all of mankind (even when a good part of it believes they dont even rate as people or are obsessed with stupid racist conspiracy theories). And a backwards Jihad state that keeps its own people inline threw systemic rape, fraud and torture.

      Excuse me i’ll go now before i say to much.

    • Jacob

      Iran threatened Israel for no reason. And nobody would be threatening Iran right now if they hadn’t been the ones to first threaten others.

    • Nadnerbus

      I shouldn’t respond to trollish comments like this, whether it is a legitimate thought or just flame bait. But there are enough people in the world that think this way that it does warrant refutation.

      There is a simple formula for deciding who to be concerned about in regards to possession of nukes. Are they peaceful democracies or oppressive fanatics? Any other moral relativism you can come up with doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. If Japan decided to go nuclear tomorrow, I really wouldn’t lose a moment’s sleep, the regional political ramifications notwithstanding. If Australia felt that possession of nukes would enhance their security, I’d be OK with selling them the tech. Hell, if Iraq proves to be stable a couple of decades from now, and at peace with its neighbors, I’d be warily able to approve their acquisition of nukes if they felt it necessary. Ideally, proliferation should be discouraged, and I’d prefer not to see anyone else get them, but I lose no sleep over England or France being nuclear armed.

      Now, if an unstable, religious fundamentalist dictatorship, with an active history of financing murder through terrorism, and rhetoric of both denying the holocaust, as well as promising another one, seeks to acquire the means of nuclear war, I do get concerned. Same for North Korea, or Iraq under Saddam.

      How this can be debated is beyond me. But someone out there will think both sides are exactly the same, morally, and that beyond that, the ends justify the means. Hope history slaps them down before things get out of control.

    • STemplar

      You might want to look up the Balfour Declaration, The British and French mandates from the League of Nations, The Treaty of Versailles and what part it played for WW2, the Treaty of Serves and the end of the Ottoman Empire, adnf UN resolution 181, and all of that might give you an inkling of how incredibly ignorant you are from a historical perspective on how we go into the “mess”.

    • Oblat

      There is no doubt that Iran’s repeated successes in defeating multiple American proxy attacks needles the usual low rent Americans. None of whom have ever been to Iran or can find it on a map. But in the end their fear and hatred can be turned on and off like a tap - “useful cattle” as one state department memo puts it.

      The great fear of our government on the other hand is that we will have to talk peace to a nuclear Iran. Regime change will be off the table. The long history of attacks on Iran will come to a close. Only then will broader peace and self-determination in the middle east be possible.

    • Brian

      Now now, guys, David has a point. All nations have the sovereign right to defend themselves. If Iran feels threatened, it can pursue nuclear weapons. There’s nothing objectively wrong with that.

      Of course, the counter-point is true as well. We don’t have to hold hands with them and sing Kumbayah. If we feel threatened by Iran’s pursuit of those weapons, we have every right to bomb them back to the stone age. And there’s nothing objectively wrong with that.

      Remember, there is no international policeman. International law has as much force as a PTA meeting — we’re bound by it until we choose not to be. Iran is free to do whatever it wants. And so are we.

  • blight

    If the Iranians can McGyver their Tomcats into staying operational, even with a limited trickle of American parts…hats off to them; they’re clearly not jungle savages.

    We can’t suggest that they are primitive brutes while simultaneously ascribing to them technical sophistication in the form of IEDs, EFPs and state-manufactured arms for the Mahdi Army and Shia groups.

    Also pretty sure that if the Soviets made the design then it’s reasonably foolproof. The upside is that there’s no proof yet that the Iranians can manufacture them and use them in scale. Nineteen missiles is plenty for a opening salvo; but without a nuclear warhead are they accurate enough to cause damage to conventional targets? Ballistic missiles never needed to be accurate with a nuclear payload, but let’s say that they use conventionals out of a fear of MIRVs from space…

  • Belesari

    Yea im not talking about the Canadian military or the brits for sure. I was talking about the others.

    Hell italians and spanish troops have been found paying off the taliban while we fight. I remember hearing about the brits getting attacked when the taliban didnt get payed in a area they took over from the italians. Seems no one had told them the scam.

    Yea some of our supposed allies in astan or iraq are more burden than anything else.

    But many of those we call friends truely seem to know what that means.

  • Marvel

    There is no question that any country, including Iran, should have the right to defend themselves. And Iran has quite a security dilemma: U.S. forces toppled regimes on either side while labeling Iran part of the “axis of evil.” But when it comes to nuclear weapons, notions of fairness typically go out the window. If there is one area in which we can be hypocritical, it is nuclear policy. Iran has simply not demonstrated that they can be trusted. So these rockets should be cause for concern-but not hysteria.

    • STemplar

      Trust in regards to weapons that can make cities disappear is a pretty big hurdle. Concern perhaps on our part, I’d say the leaders in the region based in the cable leaks would probably rather err on the side of hysteria and do something a little more prompt than the silliness that has occurred over the last 7 years through the UN.

  • Nadnerbus

    Yeah, Aussies, Brits, Canucks, and Kiwis all go on the “good” list in my book. When it comes to military hardware, I would vote to sell them anything we have if it were up to me. And in a shooting war, you can bet we’d have their backs.

    Just about anyone else, I take on a case by case basis.

  • Paulos

    Boy am i going to laugh when Iran finally does nuke another nation or supplies terrorists with nukes because you can just hear the left wing whining “why was nothing done to stop this!!!” ,then they will kick into defend Iran mode with protests in every major capital around the world, what, they defended Saddam with passion so they will with Iran.

    • Oblat

      Great example. Somehow the failure of the “Saddam’s got nukes” shtick never gets through to this crowd.

    • blight

      I think you misunderstand the nature of anti-war protests. They protested the flimsy pretext for going to war and its conflict with UN weapons inspectors, who found ambiguity but no difficult-to-hide mass spectrometers, gaseous diffusion devices or centrifuges or piles of yellowcake.

      The only time Iraq has ever used WMD was against the Iranians, and that was with our blessings. Do we withdraw our retroactive blessing and condemn? Saddam was a nutbag psycho, but I’m glad I’m not Don Rumsfeld because I’ve had the pleasure of never shaking his head; nor am I a politician of the Cold War who had to call dictators “our friends” with a straight face.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    I think have to consider another extremely scenario…

    especially the way iran got those missiles via a “friendly/neutral” country from north korea…

    won’t be surprise the norks provide iran with the technical specs limited or other-wise to create their own “fission” bomb test to keep their “enemies” away a bit more longer…while planning / doing whatever future self deluded and self serving agenda to the deteriment of everyone else in the world…

    There is a hostile universe out there that can’t wait to man-kind extinct…and here we have real nut cases or should i say real frak i-am-idiots making it easier for that hostile universe to do it’s thing.


  • Vitor

    Iran is a country of quite smart people, a civilization that has existed for thousand of years. I don’t think they would be just stupid to nuke people for the lulz.

  • Jay

    This adds up perfectly with the fact that Iran started building hardened underground launch sites a few years ago.
    This is a liquid fuel missile, and requires fueling just before launch. In above-ground sites satelite recon would see them fueling and they would be vulnerable to strike before launch. So when Iran got these they started digging underground launch silos.

    …for peaceful energy purposes!

  • eu__

    if the north korea can build those missiles despite the 50 or so years of blockade (but not from russia of course i suspect) how can iran not?

    • crackedlenses

      NK has yet to prove they can hit something besides ocean with their missiles, maybe that’s why we aren’t as afraid of them…..

  • AbleFable

    Iran has not attacked its neighbors for over a centrury. Iran had a democratically elected government, until it was overthrown by the USA & Britain for a puppet dictatorship in the 50’s, since overthown by religious oligarcs. That was all about oil & power and it sill is. Isreal has started several wars of aggresion and has violated international law at will. To say Isreal is peaceful and Iran is a war monger is obviously ignorant. Neither side is angelic. Also to say Iran threatens Isreal with genocide is also a obvious twist of words to suit your ideology. The only problem we have is that we don’t really know what Iran’s intentions are. If Wikileaks shows us anything, it’s that our western democracies are fearful of real democracy & often subvert it through nefarius means… Wikileaks is some sunshine on our government; The only danger is to those in power, not our troops. but by all means, continue to tow the line.

  • Jonathan

    CIA is pushing for an internal strife. I dont think we will see war there anytime soon.

    If anything more assasinations and domestic terrorist attacks to keep the war drums beating against them.

    North Korea on the other hand I am very worried about. I think South Korea is going to fold. The US’s dominance will be questioned. And China is going to take over Mynamar, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. This is going to take us by surprise. Then India and Pakistan will goto war, while Russia will make the most ballsy move of them all and go for its former territories as well as Sweden. The European Union is going to back down to Russia because of nuclear sabre rattling and we will see the US invading Mexico.

    Millions will die, we will live in fear, and martial law will be imposed over the globe.

    In other words the world as we know it will end. Coming in 2012.

    • elgatoso

      Too much Tom Clancy???

  • karima

    guys i have a question is this news are proved to be absolutely true)) cause when i searced into its only in wikileaks!!!!!!!

  • droopy

    Come on! the BM-25 i think this is so fricking funny! what’s next urinator?.Those nutty norks always keep me laughing!