A newly described Iranian weapon is likely designed to hold cluster munitions, not multiple warheads, as initially reported, says IHS Jane's Defense Weekly.
Iran would face substantial difficulties in equipping the "Barani" ballistic missile to protect dozens of reentry vehicles during their return into the atmosphere, the defense publication said in a Thursday analysis. The Persian Gulf power earlier this week said the missile performed as intended in a recent trial flight, and state television paired the announcement with a mock-up image of two ballistic missiles each firing roughly 30 reentry vehicles outside the earth's atmosphere.
Iranian media described the Barani as a "new generation of long-range ballistic missiles carrying multiple reentry vehicle payloads."
Jane's, though, said it is "extremely unlikely" that the missile can accommodate multiple warheads, a capacity commonly tied to nuclear arms. Rather, Iran probably built the Barani payload to drop numerous smaller bomblets after returning into the atmosphere, the analysis says.
U.S. intelligence analysts referenced Iranian work on cluster munitions in a 2012 assessment for lawmakers, the defense publication noted.
"Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with accuracy improvements and new submunition payloads," the 2012 U.S. findings state.
Still, the Middle Eastern nation may be developing a capacity to release bomblets higher than Patriot antimissile systems -- fielded in neighboring Arab countries -- could intercept them, according to the analysis. Earlier this week, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan was reported to assert that the Barani missile is capable of "evading [the] enemy's antimissile defense systems."
Jane's noted, though, that possible cluster-munition payloads could be intercepted by Aegis-equipped U.S. antimissile warships, as well as the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.