Iran Conducts Fourth Shahab-3 Test

Iran successfully completed its fourth test of the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile in mid-May, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said May 26, according to an Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) report.

With a range of 1,300 kilometers when equipped with a 700-kilogram payload, the liquid-fueled, road-mobile Shahab-3 can potentially target all of Israel with weapons of mass destruction. The missile is largely derived from the North Korean Nodong-1 and was built with significant technological assistance from Russia, according to U.S. intelligence agencies. (Russia’s nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran was a focal point of the recent U.S.-Russian presidential summit. See p. 27.)

Of Iran’s three previous Shahab-3 tests, only the second, conducted in July 2000, is believed to have been a success. (See ACT, September 2000.) Despite the previous failures, a December 2001 U.S. intelligence estimate characterized the missile as “in the late stages of development.”

The May 26 IRNA report quoted Shamkhani announcing that Iran will continue its missile program “in order to promote the power and precision of the Shahab-3 missile.” He said that the tests were carried out “to upgrade the missile and are not regarded as a new production or step toward increasing its range.”

Shamkhani added that despite the test’s success, Iran “is not intending to build new missiles under the names of Shahab-4 or Shahab-5, as claimed by the Americans.” However, Shamkhani has previously called for development of a Shahab-4 with space-launch potential and has mentioned plans for a longer-range Shahab-5 missile.

On May 16, a State Department spokesman said that the administration continues to have “serious concerns” about the Iranian missile program. The spokesman emphasized that the United States views “Iran’s efforts to further develop its missile capabilities, including flight testing of missiles, as a threat to the region and to U.S. interests” and said that Washington will “continue to actively pursue extensive efforts to stop the proliferation of missile technology and equipment to Iran.”