Iranian Multi-Warhead Missile Seen as ‘Extremely Unlikely’

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 14, 2014, 7:42 a.m.

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.

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