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- Iran is vigorously pursuing several missile and space programs at an almost feverish pace with impressive achievements. The Iranians have upgraded their ballistic missiles to become satellite launchers. To orbit a satellite is a very complicated project. There are missile stages, and a careful guidance and control system to insert the satellite into a stable, desired trajectory. They took the Shahab, extended it a bit, added more propellant, and now they have the Safir space launch vehicle. Moreover, the Iranians built a two-stage satellite launcher, instead of the usual three stage rockets for space-lift vehicles. This is incomparable to anything we know - an impressive engineering achievement.
- In spite of the Missile Technology Control Regime and in the face of sanctions, Iran has succeeded in acquiring the needed infrastructure and to raise a cadre of proficient scientists and engineers backed by academic and research institutes. Iranian missile technology is moving ahead of the level developed by the North Koreans.
- The solid-propellant Sejil missile signifies a breakthrough. This missile already poses a threat to a number of European Union countries. Based on its demonstrated achievements in solid propulsion and staging, Iran will face no significant hurdle in upscaling the Sejil into a compact, survivable intermediate-range ballistic missile. A range of 3,600 km. will be sufficient to put most of the EU under threat.
- Contrary to an initial report by U.S. and Russian scientists for the EastWest Institute, with the Sejil, Iran has demonstrated its proficiency in using solid-fuel rockets that have much shorter preparation times than do older liquid-fuel missiles. The West must already prepare for the period in the not-too-distant future when Iran deploys nuclear warheads on its missile forces, which can be dispersed in mountainous regions of Iran and will not be easy to find.
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*Uzi Rubin has been involved in Israeli military research, development, and engineering programs for almost forty years. Between 1991 and 1999 he served as head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization, and in that capacity he oversaw the development of Israel's Arrow anti-missile defense system. He was awarded the Israel Defense Prize in 1996. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation to the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on August 6, 2009.