Geoff FordenSecret Iranian Missile Memos

I have been given access to a series of what appeared to be internal secret Iranian documents by sources I trust. If authentic, and I believe they are, they provide important insights into Iran’s missile development program and have important implications for North Korea’s as well. Unfortunately, to protect my sources and the Iranians who spirited these documents out to the West, I cannot be too explicit about their contents. The following examination of these memos contains both information from and my analysis of them. I have tried to explicitly point out what is my speculation.

A “Loose” Development Consortium

The memos cover, in a somewhat sketchy way, a lot of ground. Perhaps the most important aspects are those that deal with how several countries collaborate in either developing missiles or selling missile technology to Iran. The memos use codes for the different collaborator countries but I think I know the meanings of the codes. If my understanding is correct, they indicate that representatives from North Korea and China have been present at all phases of production and flight testing. Iran has also gotten important help from Russia, though Russians do not appear to have been as ubiquitous as the Chinese and the North Koreans. The evidence from the memos indicates that this help is on the governmental level rather than “rogue” individuals. This includes Russian help though Russia has been particularly vocal in its denials of such assistance. Despite these denials, the evidence of foreign assistance, both images of engines and turbopumps that are obviously of Russian origin—either their actual production or at the very least their designs—and these internal Iranian memos, make the case overwhelmingly.

The strong implication in the memos is that this assistance was sought by Iran to reduce the risk of project failure. (See my discussion, on paths proliferators might take.) However, the exchange of technology is not automatic, as it would be in a shared development program. Iran appears to have decided that it will try to solve problems as they come up in an effort to develop indigenous capabilities. Under this acquisition strategy, transfer of technology or know-how, even the exchange of opinions, must be approved on what appears to be a case by case basis by a central authority. This could be an explanation for why North Korea’s U’nha-2 failed during its third stage even though it appears to use the Safir’s second stage; a stage that Iran had problems with but eventually got to work. The solution to that problem under this type of collaboration would not have automatically been shared and either North Korea did not ask for it or Iran refused to share it.

Several of the memos also highlight one area that Iran says it does need help in: the production of advanced solid and liquid propellant. They say that while Iran has tried to produce such fuels on its own, they indicate that the problems they have run into are best solved to purchasing complete propellant production plants from outside sources.

These memos have, at least for me, put Iran’s missile development strategy in a different light. Iran is clearly mustering its industrial and intellectual infrastructure to produce long range missiles and, more importantly, to assimilate the know-how to design and produce more advanced missiles in the future. It is not, however, doing this independently of more advanced nations. In fact, it still needs to rely on them for help in quickly solving problems as they come up and for purchasing complete production facilities if they find a process too hard for efficient indigenous production. But Iran is picking and choosing, in a strategic fashion, the problems it wants to solve on its own and those it wants help with. All of this is done in a concerted effort to become an independent designer and manufacturer of long range missiles in as short a time as possible.

Kavoshgar’s Development Program

I have always wondered what Iran was doing in the Kavoshgar flight of 4 February 2008. It is, of course, possible that it was simply a “sounding rocket” flight using a “standard” Shahab-3 missile but I have always suspected it was more. Several of the memos, however, give an interesting insight into the Kavoshgar’s place in Iran’s missile development program. They suggest that several flights of the Kavoshgar were failures while only one Kavoshgar flight was announced on 4 February 2008. The Iranians attribute at least one of these failures to a fuel flow problem but also mention problems with the jet vanes(!) which they blame on very low quality imported graphite. I take these references to other Kavoshgars as referring to previous missile flights that were publicized under other names, like the Ghadr, which was first displayed during a military parade in 2007. They might also include a Shahab missile flown during the Great Prophet III war games in July 2008.

That, unfortunately, gets us into a discussion of names, both Iranian and Western, for different versions of the Shahab missiles; a subject that I wish I could avoid. If you do a Google search for “Shahab” you find things like Shahab-3B, Shahab-3M, Shahab-3ER, Shahab-3C, and Ghader-1, but I suspect that several of these are just different Western analysts’ names for the same missile. (The memos indicate, rather cryptically, that there are five members of the Shahab family of missiles. I’m sure we could have a very lively discussion about what that means.) For what it is worth, I think the Shahab family includes the Shahab-3 (essentially a Nodong with a steel airframe and two propellant storage tanks; the fuel being in front of the oxidizer); a Shahab-3B (similar to the Shahab-3 but with a reduced warhead mass in a “baby-bottle nosecone”—hence my designation of “B”—as shown on the left, which increases accuracy during reentry, and possibly has an aluminum airframe); and the “enhanced” Shahab or Shahab-E, which is the Iranian designation, and I assume is like the Shahab-3B but with two oxidizer tanks in front of the fuel tank. It is of course possible that what I have termed the Shahab-3B also uses two oxidizer tanks but then there is no meaningful differences between these two types and they both should be classified as Shahab-E’s.

There are some minor external differences visible between the Shahab-3B and the Shahab-E but it is possible both have an aluminum airframe. These differences are a slight increase in height for the Shahab-E and a slight difference in where the external cable track leading from the navigation units just behind the warhead to the thrust vector control at the rear of the exhaust nozzle. However, the really important difference is that I believe the Shahab-E has two oxidizer tanks and that both are in front of the fuel tank, reversing their order when compared to the Shahab-3B because the reduced warhead weight and the increased drag from the more complex warhead shape both increase the potential instability of the design. Splitting the oxidizer tank in two increases the aerodynamic stability by allowing the rocket to first use the lower oxidizer tank and then, as I mentioned above, I believe the Kavoshgar is an enhanced Shahab.

“Fuel flow problems” suggests that the Kavoshgar design has changed the system for feeding propellant into the combustion chamber. Unfortunately, we need a great deal of speculation to carry this further. However, two possibilities immediately suggest themselves when coupled with speculations about splitting the oxidizer tank into two to increase stability. One is that moving the oxidizer tank forward has changed the feed line resistance to pumping the oxidizer into the combustion chamber. If the turbopump has not been changed—a change that would entail a major re-engineering effort—then it is conceivable that bubbles (or cavitation) have started to form in the turbopump, causing instabilities in the propulsion. However, these bubbles would tend to form at the very beginning of the flight when the acceleration of the missile is lowest. Videos of the launch give no indication that such instabilities occur, though that does not rule them out.

Another possibility is the process of switching from one oxidizer tank to another. Seemingly simple procedures like this can cause significant engineering problems; problems that might not show up in the portions of video shown of the Kavoshgar flight but only halfway through the powered portion of the trajectory.

In either case, or perhaps in a third possibility not considered here, the solution eluded Iranian engineers and they were authorized to consult foreign experts.

The Safir Rocket

Some of the most interesting points of a subset of the memos arise during their discussion of the Safir, the two stage rocket that Iran used to orbit a satellite in February 2009. Those state that the airframes for both the first and second stages came from the enhanced Shahab. (This, by the way, rules out the Sejil being the Shahab-E since solid propellant rockets need considerably thicker and heavier airframes to contain the pressures associated with their combustion.) Another interesting feature unique to the Safir is a guidance system said in some of the memos to use GPS, a feature we will return to below.

Some analysts have questioned the Safir’s second stage ability to lift heavy payloads, arguing that Iran had to reduce the strength of the second stage structure to enable it to lift even a small satellite into space. Their implication was clearly that if the same structure was used on a missile carrying a heavy warhead, it would collapse. However, their hypothesis is drawn into serious question if the Safir’s second-stage airframe really did come from a Shahab-E. If there are no such structural issues, then a military version of the Safir could lift a one ton warhead into much of Europe.

One of the biggest changes for the Safir from previous missile’s flown by Iran, according to some of these memos, is its guidance system. Not only is it a two stage missile with a new and more efficient way of controlling the second stage’s flight, using two gimbaled engines, the memos also say it uses GPS as well as inertial guidance systems like gyroscopes. Other space-faring powers have, of course, gotten along perfectly well with pure inertial guidance system for putting a satellite into orbit. So we are left looking around for applications that Iran might find more easily accomplished using GPS. One possibility is that Iran found it difficult to control the second stage’s flight without at least a check on the inertial measurements with a GPS. Unfortunately, the real reason will depend on the details of Iran’s internal capabilities, capabilities that are very difficult to know or judge as outside observers. One thing that is clear from the memos is that GPS is only being used in the Safir because its mission is to put a satellite into orbit. It will not be used for military missiles which might be subject to the US turning off the precision coverage.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the paths proliferators take to acquiring weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, and in particular Iran’s efforts, are subjects of immense importance that many different analysts have been and continue to struggle with. After all, if we can understand how successful proliferators operate, we can adjust our nonproliferation regimes to be more effective. These memos show that proliferators are desperately trying to gain that indigenous capability but they also show that the proliferators still have a long way to go. As proliferators develop their own advanced industrial base, our supply-side nonproliferation regimes like the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)—where supplier countries agree to not ship certain technologies to suspect countries—will become less and less effective. We will have to evolve those regimes to deal with the changing technological landscape. Unfortunately, the memos also show that not all countries that have signed up with those regimes have fully committed themselves to following the agreements.


  1. Tal Inbar

    Authenticity – dealing with what you called “internal secret Iranian documents” on various missile programs must be done with extreme care. I understand the need to protect the sources, but without any scan of a single page it is not possible to asses the reliability or authenticity. (We must believe that Mr. Forden is honest – and I don’t imply he isn’t – and so are the sources that provided him with these memos.

    Are the memos in Farsi? Are there any known letterheads? Identifiable phone numbers or email addresses?

    These are but SOME issues, with no regard to the content, which I will address in a later response.

  2. raghar (History)

    It’s been nice to knowing you.

  3. Geoff Forden (History)


    I am aware of these issues and checks. I believe that these documents are authentic though, as I allude, one can never be 100% certain. I can only say I have a “high confidence” in their authentisicty or I would not have posted about them.

  4. Anya L. (History)

    Geoff, I think it might be helpful if you posted info (if you have it) on dates of alleged collaboration. It would be interesting to know the timing, especially in the Russian case. Thanks!

  5. Geoff Forden (History)

    I should make clear that I cannot provide any more details about these documents without endangering their sources. this is a highly unsatisfactory situation, I know, but readers can choose whether or not to put much stock in them. My future posts will return to open source information only but when this information dropped into my lap, so to speak, I felt it was important to presented it.

  6. Steven Aftergood (History)

    Somewhat relatedly, I obtained several classified Iranian documents on the 2004 tests of the Shkval-derived Hoot missile. They are in Persian, with a few pages in Russian. Link at the sig.

  7. Matt Hoey (History)

    Your making the right decision to not share any specific details in the open-source. No dates, numbers, locations, coded words, etc – anything that could lead to this being traced back to a department, location, research team etc. It is clear that you are concerned that he could end up sitting in an Iranian prison or worse. Very cool Geoff. BTW: Thank you. Once again you took the time and effort to share with everyone an excellent post that enhances our understanding of the Iranian missile program.

  8. Geoff Forden (History)

    Just to make it clear, personal attacks are not going to be permitted on this website.

  9. nick (History)

    Were the gyros from domestic origins, or provided by outside sources? What about the GPS units?

  10. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    Obviously, I think you are acting in good faith, but there is a real question of why you think the documents are authentic.

    Tal Inbar raises some of the questions that I had — what does “internal” mean? Are they electronic copies? Originals? Xeroxes? How many pages? Are they in English?

    You can understand why someone might be skeptical, even if the information itself seems quite reasonable.

    The indications of government-sanctioned assistance from Rusia, China and elsewhere, in particular, needs to be treated with some care, given that you say “the memos use codes for the different collaborator countries.”

  11. Geoff Forden (History)

    The documents were in Farsi, there were some with multiple pages, some (but not all) had Organizational headers etc. I believe I understand why the others did not have organizational headers when that was the case. Most, but not all, had identifiable names and/or phone numbers. I also trust the sources I got them from but, obviously, I cannot go into that. My understanding of the codes are consistent with the internal information in the memos and with open sources that talk about the same things but I have to be clear that there IS more uncertainty in the meaning of the codes than in the other information.

  12. Azr@el (History)

    I don’t believe it’s a personal attack to point out when someone is being used to disseminate disinformation. In fact, my own sentiments are in line with those shopping this story around and only for the sake of not having the authour, G. Forden, embarrassed by this matter further down the road, I urge careful re-examination of the sources and claims before putting one’s reputation on the line. It may seem conclusive, but ultimately it is a single stream of uncorroborated information vouchsafed by someone the authour trust; history has seen this format abused many a time.

    And perhaps I was being too subtle the other time around, but right now nothing would be more pleasing to some than to put egg on the face of the boys from Moscow with allegations of MTCR violations and pressure them to kill ABM/SAM sales to the IRI. Further, by dragging in the PRC and alleging that the IRI missile programs are dependent on considerable outside assistance, a minority opinion, these memos leaks would add steam to the cause of stiff and broad sanctions.

  13. Geoff Forden (History)


    Your previous message was far from the worst personal attack but I believe it too crossed a line. This is phrased much better.

  14. War News Updates (History)

    Your post is an interesting read. I do not know if the information that you obtained is valid or not …. disinformation or not …. but I am glad that it is now part of the public debate.

    A good researcher or journalist always compares multiple sources of information to find the truth. I am sure that if you were able to get your hands on this information, others will also be able to get information from leaks and insiders.

    With time, your post and others will lead us to the truth … or verify that what we already know is the truth.

    On a side note, my contacts in Russia tell me that the Russian Government is not helping Iran in acquiring missile technology. If they have Russian designs, it would be coming from backdoor channels or from one of the Russian Republics looking for a quick buck. Belarus comes to my mind.

  15. hasslein (History)

    War News Updates appears to be somewhat at odds with the assertion that the Iranian missile program is receiving some modicum of assistance from Russia. I wouldn’t begin to venture a guess as to whether or not this has any real basis (avid reader, but I don’t know shit from shinola); that said, you really need to provide some verifiable proof that the documents you claim to possess are authentic. I am a firm proponent of timely and accurate disclosure – and this very instant may not be conducive. I certainly hope, however, that you can accomodate your readers (and, by proxy, the people that have a vested interest) in less than, say, a month, years, aeons, etc.

  16. Omid (History)

    Once again a great post!

    Don’t you think the guidance system might be used in Sejjil?If you remember the last one was said to have improvements on guidance.

    What about 4 February 2008 failed launch of Safir,Was there anything?

  17. Peter J. Brown

    Geoff, well done, but where you write —

    “Iran has also gotten important help from Russia, though Russians do not appear to have been as ubiquitous as the Chinese and the North Koreans. The evidence from the memos indicates that this help is on the governmental level rather than “rogue” individuals. This includes Russian help though Russia has been particularly vocal in its denials of such assistance. Despite these denials, the evidence of foreign assistance, both images of engines and turbopumps that are obviously of Russian origin—either their actual production or at the very least their designs—and these internal Iranian memos, make the case overwhelmingly.”

    Is this really a noteworthy revelation, and if so, who is really in the hot seat as a result, China or Russia? After all, the presence of this technology is one thing, while making it work properly is something else entirely. And if China is really in the hot seat as a result, what will be the fallout in Israel where certain factions have pressed so hard for advanced weapons sales to China in the not too distant past?

  18. Geoff Forden (History)

    Let me emphasize that, while North Koreans and Chinese were present at all major stages of production and testing, Iran ONLY makes use of their help when they cannot solve the problems themselves or, perhaps, when waiting for an indigenous solution would be a major bottleneck in their program. I did not mean to imply that Russia was providing the components for missiles but they are involved in supplying closely related adjunct production facilities.

  19. Norman (History)

    As a non-technical person, I may be missing an important point. If so, please explain. But why is it nefarious for Iran to be developing long-range missile capacity when it is being threatened with a pre-emptive attack by Israel almost every day, and by American “no option off the table” policies? Wouldn’t the US do the same if seriously threatened by nations with superior military technology?

  20. Arnold Evans (History)

    Geoff Forden:

    What do you think the motive was of the intelligence organization that gave you these reports, knowing you’d publish their findings and explicitly giving you conditional permission to do so?

    Somebody wants the story to be spread that Iran is getting help from North Korea, China and Russia in its nuclear program.

    Why would a party that wants that story to spread refrain from forging papers that say that?

    Forging papers never was a difficult thing to do, but it is far less difficult now than it had ever been.

    Armscontrolwonk has absolutely no capacity to detect a forgery.

    I wonder if it wasn’t a forgery why your source would have wanted these results published.

    No affirmative statement about Iran’s missile program can be made on the basis of these papers. What these papers prove is that whether it is true or not, some party that has a relationship with armscontrolwonk wants the public to believe Iran’s missile program is supported by Russia, China and North Korea.

    The claim of outside support for Iran’s missile program may still be true, but this report has absolutely zero evidential value on that question.

  21. Tobias vk

    I don’t know if you have read this but it might be an interesting read on authenticity of the laptop US claims has stolen from Iran containing details of their missile and nuclear programs:

  22. lsxaq (History)

    …Chinese were present at all major stages of production and testing…Russia was providing the components for missiles but they are involved in supplying closely related adjunct production facilities.

    Geoff, that is where the bottom line is, not how Iran makes use of their help.

    If this is not an indictment of MTCR violations by China and Russia, then what is the value of the secret memos?

    knowing that Iran’s missile and nuclear development program is the primary security concern for various states who’s focus was to limit and delay through sanctions. I’m sure that the political significance of these secret memos are not lost to you, specially if the memos support MTCR violations.

    Many of us here are generally more interested in the technical aspects of Iran’s missile programs, but once you open this door, it is not any longer technical issue but rather a political one.

    Let’s say that these memos are authentic, and we respect your diligent approach to protect your sources. Can you explain to us what is the role for armscontrolwonk in this situation? How do you achieve the ‘control’ aspect using these memos without indicting those who violate the control based treaties?

  23. FSB

    so Iran is getting illicit secret help from Russia and China? Maybe.

    But, if so, it should not surprise anyone since we give not-so-secret and, in fact, illegal (against our own Arms Control Export Act!) weapons help to Israel.

  24. Geoff Forden (History)


    I feel it is important for policy makers to know which are the successful strategies for obtaining WMD and the means of delivering them. Only then can we respond effectively to the new proliferation environment where precision engineering is spreading worldwide. Supply-side nonproliferation regimes, like the MTCR and the NSG, are going to become less and less effective as more countries get more and more capable. Twenty five years ago, it would have been thought impossible for Malaysia to have machined centrifuge components. Now, A.Q. Khan subcontracts out different parts. It is tremendously important to know how the world will be different 25 years from now. Getting a handle on how much help Iran needs for different tasks is an important aspect of that.

    In fact, that is the only reason I post technical discussions on this blog. I have written about this before (see, for instance, Tone Deaf in the Mid-East) and much of my research involves trying to understand how we need to change the way we prevent the spread of WMD. So without these policy implications, I certainly would not be posting technical discussions on the blog.

  25. hass (History)

    Equating missiles with WMDs is sloppy. By that logic, Saudi Arabia has WMDs pointed at Tehran because they purchased 50 or so CSS-2 “East Wind” intermediate range missiles from China.

  26. Fred2 (History)

    Iran is determined to have a nuclear weapons and delivery capability, and eventually they will have them, unless they are stopped.

    This raises the harder question of their intent, now and later.

    More deeply, though, I think we need a better understanding of what exactly Russia and China think they are getting out of helping Iran this way. Is it just general anti-Western feeling? Or is there something specific? Russia exports oil and China imports, yet they are on the same side. Why?

    Do they feel the need to push the West out of the mideast oil fields? Is Iran their tool for doing this?

    Understanding their reasons could help us limit weapons proliferation.

  27. John F. Opie (History)

    As Fred2 says, the harder question is now of intent: why would the Chinese and the Russians help the Iranians in violation of MTCR and the like?

    Simple (bit not simplistic!) answer: because they have decided that it is in their national interest to do so. China desperately needs Iranian oil; Russia … seems to be back to its old policy of creating chaos and disarray amongst its perceived enemies in order to weaken them.

    The failure of everyone to prevent the Iranians from building the bomb and being able to deliver it – and I can’t see how the two are, right now, avoidable via diplomatic means – will indeed cast a major pall on any post-Iran attempts to get everyone on the same side in terms of avoiding mass proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    This failure will mean that the world will become a much, much more dangerous place. That’s in nobody’s interest except those who can profit from it…

  28. Inspectorman (History)

    Broadly, you have to support the effort to post the information; even in a redacted form. The article contains many caveats about the source and its authenticity; and we’re in no doubt that judgement has been used in assessing whether it’s worth posting or not. It might be a chink of light on the programme – or it might not.

    So why the fuss? No-one truly expects Putin to be posting anytime soon about how sorry he is. Nor are we unaware of how policy may be shaped by documents leaked to well-meaning pundits. Ultimately, counter-proliferation is a game for adults; and as long as you are able to change your mind when the facts change – as they will – then there isn’t a problem.

  29. FSB

    in fact, there have been detailed studies as to why Iran may have wanted nuclear weapons (up until ~2004 time-frame).

    One such study was the NDU study which concluded that Iran desires nuclear weapons mainly because it feels strategically isolated and that “possession of such weapons would give the regime legitimacy, respectability, and protection.” I.e. Iran desires nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterrence (vis a vis US and Israel).

    “[W]e judge, and nearly all experts consulted agree, that Iran would not, as a matter of state policy, give up its control of such weapons to terrorist organizations and risk direct U.S. or Israeli retribution.” And it said the United States has options short of war that it could employ to deter a nuclear-armed Iran and dissuade further proliferation.

    The solution is, of course, a nuclear-free middle east which will come about only when the first middle eastern proliferator, Israel, is disarmed.

    Having said that, there is no evidence of a current nuclear arms program in Iran. None.

  30. Rwendland (History)

    Re the MTCR – assuming these memos are correct, are we sure the second stage components involved are large enough to come under the MTCR?

    eg turbopumps are only covered if “shaft speeds equal to or greater than 8,000 rpm or with discharge pressures equal to or greater than 7 MPa.” [3.A.5.1.b] Presumably of about a size suitable for a one stage 500kg/300km missile. Also complete engines unsuited for a one stage 500kg/300km missile (total impulse capacity 1.1 × 10**6 N [2.A.1.c]) seem to be excluded from the MTCR. Possibly second/third stage components are not of this size, so would not be under MTCR.

    Also most components, like turbopumps, are Category II items, which can be exported with suitable end user checks. The MTCR Category II components constraint is “if the Government judges, on the basis of all available, persuasive information, … that they are intended to be used for the delivery of WMD, and there will be a strong presumption to deny such transfers.” Not all governments think Iran will soon have WMDs, which makes the MTCR intention for WMD delivery requirement on any component difficult to justify.

  31. GW

    In light of this topic I thought that this story was rather interesting

  32. raghar (History)

    “The solution to that problem under this type of collaboration would not have automatically been shared and either North Korea did not ask for it or Iran refused to share it.” So now they know, they should ask.

    “Iran is clearly mustering its industrial and intellectual infrastructure to produce long range missiles and, more importantly, to assimilate the know-how to design “
    Obviously. That engine redesign few years ago actually proved it. It looks like these scientists/engineers are proud and are doing more than necessary. (Which would help them later.)

    What was that last part? It had feeling like you had el comisare behind your back aiming a pistol at your head. “profilerators” “operate” that’s strange choice of words.

    Are these documents the same as IAEA used? I’m not sure about theirs validity. In fact, I consider IAEA jerks for using them.

    Russia believes in dignity, China in lost face. A lot of that documents can be explained by a completely innocent cooperation, thus when these materials would be used against them, they would feel they were stabbed into theirs back.

    Now sometimes secret services are writing reasonably sounding gibberish into theirs internal documents. When these documents would get out, they know who released them.

    As for GPS usage. Neither Chinese nor Galieo systems would be turned off in a conflict against US allies, or against US. Which means a military warhead with (multisource)GPS/INS guidance can relatively safely use GPS corrections.

  33. Azr@el (History)

    This has degenerated into a ‘he said/she said’ tantrum; which hardly aids the goals of non-proliferation. If there are documents supporting these allegations then they should be released allowing for the world community to determine their authenticity otherwise they become just like the laptop forgeries; a political football that gets kicked around by pundits with axes to grind all the whilst muddying the true debate.

    It’s irresponsible to make incredible allegations without the covenant of evidence. It smacks too much of the yellow journalism of the last century and I’m sure that’s not what the authour intends. The pursuit of truth is a transpicuous process which denies itself shortcuts for the sake of integrity.

  34. Fred2 (History)

    The NDU report you mentioned also says

    “…the lack of confirmable information on Iran’s leaders, particularly on how they make decisions, what they fear, if they have a concept of deterrence, or whether they appreciate implicit redlines set by countries with whom they have no contact—the United States and Israel—makes forecasting this issue very difficult.”

    So letting Iran have nukes, or disarming Israel, are experiments with unknown outcomes.

    The argument that Iran feels the need for a deterrent flies in the face of the total lack of attack by either Israel or the US since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. So the Iranians, are, in effect, paranoid. Nukes for paranoids is not a slogan I’ll be chanting soon.

    According to the report, the other main motive for Iranian nuclear weapon development is “legitimacy, respectability, and protection”. If legitimacy and respectability were important, then Ahmadinejad and Khamenei would not have made Holocaust Denial such a large part of their policy and image. Try Nukes for Holocaust Deniers as a slogan.

    Nobody but Saddam has attacked modern Iran, and he’s dead. In contrast, the many attackers of Israel are still alive and kicking. There is no comparison of their defense needs. Iran has 10 times the population of Israel.

  35. Shay Begorrah (History)


    No one is being paranoid here, there is a struggle for control of the resources and political direction of the oil producing nations of the middle east and the US and Israel are in opposition to Iran with neither the US or Israel having a terrific record of respecting the territorial integrity of other countries in pursuit of their goals.

    Furthermore if the aim of arms control is reduced to merely maintaining current strategic imbalances I can see no circumstances where nuclear proliferation and its attendant risks will become less likely.

  36. Azr@el (History)

    “Nukes for paranoids” I adore the simplistic logic of this argument. If we follow it to it’s logical conclusion, then the U.S., Britain, France , Russia and the PRC should all disarm, since no one has attacked them lately and they all have populations larger than Israel to boot. Of course we can always say that these nations have been attacked by terrorist but so has the IRI, therefore terrorist attacks don’t justify nuclear arsenals. We should all stop being paranoid and give up the bomb.

  37. John F. Opie (History)

    Two things:

    One statements were made here that appear to be contradicted by others:


    “Having said that, there is no evidence of a current nuclear arms program in Iran. None.”

    Ummm, President Sarkozy of France recently said that it was an open secret that Iran has an operating nuclear arms program. I know that you say “evidence”, but given the inevitable paucity of same, either President Sarkozy is lying or we need to recognize that evidence may not be available that would satisfy most, despite the fact that Iran is enriching nuclear materials (or is that in question too?). Link here:

    Seoond: apparently the Obama Administration is going to abandon plans to put in interceptor missiles into Poland/Eastern Europe because, and I paraphrase here, “Iranians plans for building missiles isn’t as far along as it appears”, which seems to me to be a fairly poor interpretation of what we are seeing here.

    They’re leaving the option open, but are not setting a great precedence by apparently interpreting the Iranian missile-building program to be not making “as much progress” as originally expected…

    Just sayin’, you know?

  38. RAJ47

    The purpose of dropping information into somebody’s lap is to mold opinion of public at large on the desired path.

    The world must understand one thing for sure, that you can not bomb the knowhow. You may be able to destroy infrastructure but technological knowledge acquired by Iran can be stopped only by negotiations. Destroying infrastructure can only strengthen the resolve to acquire more than it already has. So, I feel, that Obama administrations has taken a very wise decision to start negotiations with Iran. Israel’s confrontationist attitude can only bring more hatred in the region.

    I have put the same comments in your previous post too. The aim – more people read it.

  39. CuriousCitizen (History)

    And now, Geoff’s posting is picked up by Gertz’s Washington Times column:

    And @Fred2: “The argument that Iran feels the need for a deterrent flies in the face of the total lack of attack by either Israel <b>or the US</b> since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.”

    I guess Operation Preying Mantis and Iran Air 655 were just figments of our imagination? Certainly, the people in the IRI would question your assertion above!


  40. Tarl (History)

    “The argument that Iran feels the need for a deterrent flies in the face of the total lack of attack by either Israel or the US since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. So the Iranians, are, in effect, paranoid.”

    The US has ~130,000 troops in Iraq, ~55,000 US and Allied troops in Afghanistan, dominates the Persian Gulf, and could, if necessary, dominate the skies over Iran. In effect we surround them on three sides. I despise the Iranian regime, but I completely understand their desire to have nuclear weapons. If I were them, I’d want it, too. Seeking to counter an overwhelmingly superior potential adversary camped on your borders is not paranoia but simple common sense.

  41. DZ (History)

    Fred2: I am not sure what you are trying to get at but most of your points lack any clarity and fact… as proven by the above two posts refuting your earlier posts. I come here to read facts not to hear about political positions, shared by some countries in the west. You keep on saying that Iran is developing nuclear weapons… which means that either you do have a political agenda or that you are actually an Iranian nuclear scientist admitting to the fact. Face it there is absolutely no proof that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.. as repeatidly stated by IAEA, technical people will not make accusations without the presence of any evidence.

    John F; in your above post you indicate that Iran must be pursuing nuclear weapons because sarkozy said so? If we are going to rely on such logic then Iran clearly does not have a nuclear weapons program since Ahmadinejad and Khamenei said so… obviously Ahmadinejad and Khamenei would be in a better position to know this then Sarkozy. right?

    Unfortunately there is no real justice in this world and those who really seek it are either bullied or chastised for stating the obvious… which is that there is no proof of… NOTHING as repeatedly stated by the organization mandated to do just that. What the US and its allies (NOT the international community as they like to call themselves) is basically stating is that the burden is on Iran to prove that it is not seeking nuclear weapons… how do you prove a negative? Its like me saying the this web sites goals is actually to spread WMD know who to terrorists and then ask Geoff to prove me wrong. By the way I have evidence in a laptop i discovered that proves this but don’t ask me to show this laptop.. just trust me ok?

  42. Jochen Schischka (History)

    Cavitation would be indeed a nice explanation for fuel flow problems in a missile with swapped tanks (but, if i understand that right, not due to increased friction in the now longer oxidiser line – the fuel tank will potentially offer too little hydrostatic pressure at the turbopump-inlet at ignition if nothing else is modified. Easy cure: modify the existing tank-pressurization-system accordingly! That is exactly why i consider the pressure-gas-issue to be generally underestimated in reconstructing liquid-fueled missiles!).

    And five Shahab-3-variants would make sense to me, considering the available photographic evidence:

    1.) The original Shahab-3/Nodong-A (which can not reach Israel from Iran);

    2.) A modified Shahab-3 with three tanks, oxidiser in front – this measure allows fitting a smaller warhead and thus increasing the range (although -> see possible cavitation-problems);

    3.) As 2.), but additionally with small Scud-fins instead of large Nodong-fins (further reduction in dry-weight plus less aero-drag -> further increase in range), maybe possible because of stability-reserves due to the new tank-layout;

    4.) Ghadr-1 – 2004 version: small triconic warhead (higher ballistic coefficient, thus harder to intercept!), more densely packed guidance section in the frustrum directly below the warhead, stretched tanks (most likely without any intertank-section, thus optimally using the volume of the tank-section), longer burn-time;

    5.) Ghadr-1 – 2005+ (aka final) version (possibly Nodong-B?):
    Additionally inserted cylindrical section of ~0.4m length between the upper end of the tank- and the lower end of the guidance-section (i’m not sure if this is only an empty section to increase the leverage of the warhead- and guidance-mass or if there’s an additional pressure-gas-vessel inside – the latter may allow a higher pressure in the tanks and thus a higher thrust-level, in the range of what the Safir apparently demonstrated; Neither the turbopump nor the thrust chamber would require noteworthy modifications for this, sufficient reserves in all components presupposed);

    Based on the general scheme of NATO-designators, i’d call these missiles Nodong-A mod.0, Nodong-A mod.1, Nodong-A mod.2, Nodong-B mod.0 and Nodong-B mod.1.

    I don’t know if the Iranians used aluminum on any of these designs, but i personally do assume that all this is steel – a lot more easy to implement, especially since the new tank-layout allows quite small payloads (which, of course, only makes sense with either pinpoint accuracy – which i do not believe – or a nuclear warhead with an accordingly large area of effect)!

    P.S.: I must underscore again that i see potential inconsistencies (considering the delta-v-capacity) of the Safir’s upper stage and the Eunha’s third stage being identical (unless the North Koreans plan a moon-mission as their first space activity…).
    But those two stages might be interchangeable (although boosters may be neccessary on the Safir in this case; alternatively a lighter Ghadr-1-body with smaller tanks could be used – with the downside of a reduction in first-stage burntime/delta-v/range).
    Perhaps the North Koreans used the engine (Scud, Gammon or something completely different?) from the 1998-Taepodong-1-shot on their upper stage – potentially with enough thrust to carry a noteworthy payload (the low thrust of the Safir’s upper stage engine of only ~4t is the limiting factor – at least considering a military application, which has to follow a range-optimized trajectory, which is difficult/impossible with such an underpowered upper stage).

  43. lsxaq (History)

    Revised U.S. assessment on Iran drives policy shift on missile defense in Europe.

    According to Reuters: They said Tehran could push ahead more quickly if it received technical assistance from a third party. “That’s something you’ve got to worry about,” a current administration official said. “But we’ve not seen that to date.”

    based on the above, the Russians or the Chinese, need not worry about the current U.S. Adminstration taking them to task as the third party that helped the Iranians on their missile development program.

    this is the link for this article by reuters:

  44. Jochen Schischka (History)

    A little addition to my last comment:

    Considering the aluminum-issue, we should not forget that the fins and the encasement of the engine section on all Scud- and thus in all likelihood also all Nodong-variants is made of aluminum-sheet. Nonetheless, the tanks of at least all Scud-variants were made of some sort of stainless steel.
    This may possibly explain any references to aluminum in relation to any Nodong-variant (unless the text explicitly mentions the tanks being made of aluminum…).

    A third possibility for fitting a heavier upper stage on the Safir without uprating the lower stage engine any further (which i don’t consider possible) would of course be to lighten the propellant load of the lower stage – i suspect the Iranians did exactly that on at least the two 2004-Ghadr-shots, since i don’t see any signs of an increased thrust-level (compared to the earlier Shahab-3/Nodongs) in the published material of those launches (or the Khavoshgar-1-shot, which was in essence a 2005+-type Ghadr-1 with the Safir’s telemetry-equipment instead of a military payload inside of the reentry-vehicle, if i understood that one right), although the liftoff-acceleration seems to be the same as on earlier Shahab-3-shots despite the potentially higher liftoff-mass due to more propellant (?) in the (without doubt) stretched tanks.

  45. Jochen Schischka (History)

    And yet another afterthought:

    After doing some calculations/estimations, i’m coming to the conclusion that the difference in hydrostatic pressure due to a relocation of the fuel tank on the Nodong would only be ~0.5bar (i assume that this can be corrected with relatively simple means without heavy modifications in the pressurization system);

    On the other hand, this ‘fuel flow problems’ issue could perhaps offer a nice explanation for the additional intersection between the tanks and the guidance-frustrum on the Ghadr-1 (version 2005+):

    If the Iranians initially stretched the tanks (by ~20%) without adding more pressure gas, the tank pressure will drop after a longer burntime than the standard Shahab-3 (just like on the iraqi S-80/Al-Hussain H2)

  46. Jochen Schischka (History)

    (Ooops, accidentally hit the ‘submit button’…)

    If the tank pressure (of ~4.5bar) on the Ghadr-1 (version 2004) drops after the ~100th second (due to not more pressure gas as on the standard Shahab-3/Nodong-A), this might cause perhaps problems near burnout around 115-120 seconds because of a potentially too low tank pressure (of less than 4 bar);
    The cure in this case would be more pressure gas – and that could be the reason for the additional intersection (i’m thinking of some sort of toroidal pressure vessel – perhaps procured from mentioned sources)…

  47. John F. Opie (History)


    Ah, the problem of truth in the face of contradictory statements and virtually complete lack of open information…

    Seriously: my point is that if the French are saying that the Iranians have a nuclear weapons program, there are probably legs to the story, given the usual French propensity to downgrade US intelligence assessments. The problem with your reasoning – wait until we have absolute, unimpeachable, bring-it-in-a-court-of-law proof – is that meeting these standards are impossible: if anything, the only way we’d get proof was when the Iranians finally tested one of their bombs over Tel Aviv.

    We – and here I also mean the community of disarmament specialists – don’t have the luxury of waiting for that. We will operate in a realm of uncertainty until the Iranians come completely clean and open their programs up for inspection (and even then the likelihood of deception remains). The question boils down to the believability of both sides, and I for one have ample reason to distrust the Iranians when it comes to their nuclear weapons programs.

    Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice…

  48. Sam Smith (History)

    If Iran wanted to attack Israel It has enough Chemical and Bio weapons to Do so now!!!Iran wants to be a major power not be destroyed.I dont like the mullahs but to say their suicidal is Insane in itself
    Iran wants to be #1 in the middle east and a major power in Asia thats its reasoning for doing what it does.

  49. Jochen Schischka (History)

    To Sam Smith:

    “If Iran wanted to attack Israel It has enough Chemical and Bio weapons to Do so now!!!”

    And how would these weapons reach Israel?
    Maybe via the ubiquitous oxcart?

    Their aircraft would certainly be intercepted single-handedly by the neither badly-equipped nor untrained israeli air force;

    Their artillery pieces hardly have a range of ~1.100+ km (see Google Earth);

    And their medium range missiles will thoroughly roast any C- or B-agent (thus rendering it useless) during reentry due to excessive heat-levels (not to speak of all the other grave technical difficulties…or the israeli Arrow-system…)!

    My bad, i forgot about the U.S. Postal Forces (reliably delivering small-scale WMD since 2001)…

    Let’s get serious:

    1.) Forget about MRBMs transporting C- or the even much more temperature-prone B-weapons (i’m absolutely fed up with reading/hearing this silly B- or C-warhead stuff over and over again – TECHNICALLY NOT FEASIBLE, PERIOD!).
    At best (if you know exactly how to make this possible – definitely not like the Iraqi’s tried back in 1991, see UNMOVIC-Compendium p.162-165 and p.960-962), this works at the same typical maximum ranges as a cluster-warhead: ~300km!

    2.) This leaves only Hisbollah- or Hamas-rockets as a realistic type of delivery for iranian unconventional munitions to Israel; Only time will tell if a) the Iranians, b) the Lebanese, c) the Palestinians and/or d) the Egyptians are/will be crazy enough to let that happen…

    3.) To my knowledge, nobody ever has won any war with the use of B- and C-weapons (see e.g. Gulf War 1, World War 1, but also poisoned arrows or wells in medieval times…) – these are obviously the (much over-estimated) loser’s weapons!

  50. S.Bennis (History)

    Thank you and everyone for their posts. Thankless job ya’ll. Anywho Geoffrey, well done, I learened a lot. Much to think on.
    A thank you as well to those whom are willing to post. Godspeed.

  51. Azr@el (History)

    I only wish to point out that bio-chemical ordinances can be delivered by ICBM thus there should be no insurmountable difficulties for delivery via MRBM. You see Shischka if a reentry vehicle can carry a man to a safe landing it can also carry a chemical or biological agent to a nice slow airburst over a city. And recall that the boil off temperature of the explosives in a nuclear weapon aren’t much above the deneutering temperature of biochems.

    Let us skip the bit where you accuse of me of bluffing and directly add this to the R-15 business and call it ‘number 2’. 😉

    P.S. Chemical weapons can and have been used to good effect in certain situations. Persistent nerve agents can severely reduce the efficiency of logistics and staging centers by forcing NBC countermeasures; suits, wash downs, other frictions, etc… Blood, pulmonary and lachrymatory agents in close quarters can destroy the momentum of even conditioned troops. There is a difference between ‘not nice’ and ‘not niche effective’.

  52. Jochen Schischka (History)


    So you don’t have any problems naming an example of said chemical or biological MRBM- or ICBM-warheads?

    Please name only one.

    It might be possible to build a parachute-retarded, heat-shielded reentry capsule, but that would result in a slow moving (aka easy to intercept – and since most B/C-weapons a) have a limited lifespan under UV-radiation/oxygen-rich atmosphere and b) are typically less dense than air at room temperature in gaseous form or as aerosols, no significant amounts of non-degenerated agents would reach the surface if released at great height – that’s why these thingies usually airburst below 100m aka inside of the earth’s boundary layer!) reentry vehicle which would either have only a very limited amount of agent on board or would require a huge launcher for a huge capsule.

    If you skip the parachute-retarding (flap-like aerobrakes might also work – it’s only vital to slow down to speeds comparable to the typical impact velocities of artillery shells), well, then the agent will deflagrate on spraying (much like an FAE – especially C-weapons burn quite nicely…). Speed is heat (or, formulated more scientifically, the kinetic energy will be converted into thermal energy). In this context, even contact with something hot enough (like a heated warhead-surface or ejection-pyrotechnics) will result in ingnition thanks to the large decrease in activation energy due to dispersion.

    If you skip the ejecting/spraying part, well, then you’ll get a rather poisonous but small and easy to clean up spot on the ground (see e.g. Aum Shinrikyu’s Sarin-attacks) rather randomly somewhere inside of the maximum-deviation-radius of the missile – not really worth the launch of a multi-million dollar missile.

    BTW, the characteristical cook-off-temperatures of ~200°C of typical explosives are a lot higher than the usual 50-80°C for denaturing proteins…oh, and B- and C-agents have a lower density, so they can absorb less heat on the one hand (don’t forget the fact that solid explosives will melt first, absorbing astonishingly large amounts of heat, while liquid C-agents don’t…), and need more volume for the same weight on the other (thus, it’s possible to additionally put isolation on nuclear warheads without a too large growth in volume – plus: large volume, little weight -> small ballistic coefficient -> rapid deceleration -> again, easy to intercept!).

    It’s got some good reasons why there are so many nuclear-tipped and so few (i count zero functional ones – correct me if i’m wrong) C- or B-weapon-equipped ICBMs, IRBMs or MRBMs out there…

    P.S.: In my opinion, the main effect of B- or C-attacks on the modern battlefield would be, apart from doubtlessly terrorizing most of the population, to force the other’s military under NBC-protection, thus hampering their infantry’s combat effectiveness – but that is only relevant if i want to invade that country directly (my own troops will know where and when to don those bulky NBC-suits…) or if i’m getting invaded and don’t care one iota about my own population.

  53. Azr@el (History)

    Herr Schischka,

    Why give you one example when I can furnish you with two? The the SS-11 ICBM had a refrigerated reentry warhead for the deployment of viral agents and the SS-18 ICBM had a warhead designed for dried agent dispersal of anthrax and plague. I was led to believe at a younger age that the Soviet ballistic strike package on the US homeland would have employed bioagents as follow up to counter value strikes. The release of bioagents, in the face of the loss of major medical infrastructure in urban centers, were meant to weaken partisan resistance and allow for frugal light infantry to be used at the end of the long logistics line from the Soviet homeland. This of course is only what we were told, who is to say what was propaganda and what was fact? All we know for certain is that the soviets did develop the biological reentry warheads.

    Shall we call this correction of your gestalt ‘number two’ ;-p

    P.S. Where and when of nbc countermeasures are subject to the frictions of war. I don’t believe chemical weapons are a knockout blow, but when employed properly they can hinder the concentration of enemy field armies, disrupt the efficient flow of logistics, panic second tier forces and reduce the momentum of first tier forces in constrictive urban operations.

  54. Jochen Schischka (History)

    Dear Azr@el!

    I was referring to functional warheads, not something mostly being a product of febrile cold-war-fantasies.

    How many functional C- and B-warheads for their UR-100/SS-11/Sego and R-36M/SS-18/Satan did the Soviets actually field (or the U.S., or anybody else)?

    (BTW, cryogenic warheads – potential thermal-stress-difficulties nonchalantly neglected – would be quite counterproductive on missiles with storable propellants, isn’t it?)

    Did it ever strike your mind that those projects never entered service because of severe technical/physical/operational problems?

    P.S.: I see we generally more or less agree about the usefulness of C-weapons in a military conflict; I think we also mostly agree that bioweapons are a completely different story, though. (BTW, what kind of plague did the Russians try to use exactly? Pneumonic plague, which will be infectious to a radius of only about 0.3m due to the fact that those germs don’t like the 21%-oxygen-content in the atmosphere too well, or did they try to mimic the Japanese with bubonic-plague-infected fleas? Didn’t work too well back then, during WW2, either – there’s over a billion Chinese by now…apart from the fact that we have antibiotics nowadays…)
    Let’s look for example at the 2001 anthrax-attacks: Are most (North-)Americans dead by now? If i’d believe everything i see on the Discovery Channel or the Internet (or in lurid books somebody wrote) on this issue, that should be the case…

  55. Azr@el (History)


    I believe you are conflating the the terms refrigerated and cryogenic. In this regards a thermoelectric refrigerated compartment on a warhead will hardly have the specific heat capacity to cause thermal shock in the Satan’s fuel/ox tanks. As to how many of these warheads the Soviets fielded? According to official post-Soviet and ante-Soviet records; none. But of course these same records claim the Soviets never had an offensive bio weapons program in the first place. My government also spouts off similar assertions, with roughly the same degree of sincerity.

    From what I recall, the soviets did weaponize Yersinia Pestis by aerosolizing it for the pneumonic vector. The result was an airbourne bioagent with zero incident transmission characteristics that differ from naturally occurring plague. In a post counter value strike situation, where major medical centers(almost always located in urban centers) and antibiotic production facilities(almost always located in urban centers) would be destroyed and survivors would have immune systems compromised by radioactive fallout, mass disseminated plague infecting rodents and humans via pulmonary tract would have biblical impact.

    I’m not overly familiar with the 2001 anthrax incidents but I’m under the impression that they were not weaponizied; consisted of a fairly fat distribution of spore diameters consistent with improper milling and a lack of electrostatic dampening agent to prevent clumping that would hinder airbourne distribution. Note these attacks also were conducted in a first world nation with intact medical infrastructure and thus what little impact they had was further mitigated by timely response.

    Shall we call this biowarhead business ‘number 2’? ;-p

  56. Jochen Schischka (History)


    So you fail to name only a single one functional B- or C-weapon-warhead on any MRBM, IRBM or ICBM (or SLBM…)!

    As for the refrigerator compartment on the warhead: heatsinks won’t work if the ambient temperature is too high (we’re talking plasma sheaths of several thousand degrees on reentry in this context; Plus, astonishing to the layman, the tips of missiles get already rather hot during ascent…) and convection will not be available during exo-atmospheric flight (only radiation-cooling).
    Nonetheless, i think it should be self-evident that putting a refrigerator on a reentry-vehicle will eat up a lot of the limited weight and volume alone, notwithstanding the additional heat-shielding or a deceleration system (subsonic would be highly advisable in case of biological aerosol-dispersal – otherwise, the ejected micro-particles get fumitized due to braking-heat at dispersal…remember, speed is heat, and we don’t need a lot of heat to kill off bio-agents!), and we also shouldn’t forget about a dispersion system (again, the danger of a dust-explosion) initiated by an altimeter-fuze.
    So, as i wrote previously, either an even smaller amount of agent (with a much reduced area of effect), or a much larger missile for a much larger warhead (up to an absurd scale – think UR-500 or Saturn-V for contamination of just one single city…if the other side has no ABM-system in place!).

  57. Azr@el (History)

    “according to…arms control analyst Jonathan Tucker, the Soviet Union deployed warheads with small pox biological weapons on at least four ICBMs – the SS-11, SS-13, SS-17, and SS-18. These missiles were intended to kill off any American survivors in the aftermath of a nuclear attack.”

    “According to Ken Alibek, the former technical director of the Soviet ‘Biopreparat’ BW program and author of Biohazard, the Soviets worked on BW-weaponized ICBMs including their heavyweight SS-18.) According to declassified congressional testimony, the SS-11’s four warheads descended much more slowly than the rapid re-entries of nuclear-armed RVs – suggesting that the Mod 4’s MRVs carried BW payloads. Fortunately for the Navy and NATO, the Soviets never deployed the Mod 4, so we didn’t have to worry about it.”

    Seems a bit too much smoke for there not to have been at least a hotspot.

    The tips of the Satan’s reenty warheads do not get hot on accent; they are in a MIRV bus under the aerodynamic pressure bearing nose shroud. The SS-11 could toss a unitary 1200kg package across the globe; seems more than adequate for hefting a refrigerated warhead with a substantive payload of bioagents. The Satan could toss 8.8 tons!

    Schischkal, by now you’ve come to terms with the R-15 business, now it’s time to come to terms with the fact that bioweapons can be delivered by ICBMs and just as importantly bioweapons can be a potent and, dare I say, efficacious against a population suffering from radiation exposure and the loss of medical facilities and basic sanitation.

  58. Jochen Schischka (History)


    Not everything somebody writes is neccessarily correct! (BTW, russian weapons often don’t work as expected – although some of those might even be fielded, just to keep up appearances…see e.g. the R-31/SS-N-17/Snipe or the R-2/SS-2/Sibling)

    Have you ever looked at the back of your refrigerator (i assume you have one in your kitchen)?

    There, you will notice a) a heat exchanger that needs a minimum clearance for convection and b) a power cord;
    Question 1): How long will your refrigerator work on a car battery?
    Question 2): How well will it work with the heat exchanger obstructed?
    Question 3): How well will it work if you put the refrigerator inside of your oven (i guess you have one in your kitchen, too)?
    Question 4): How long will that refrigerator work on that car battery now? Will it work at all?

    In respect to that B-warhead on an ICBM, let me sum up what you’d need:

    1.) agent (statistically about 10g per unprotected person that is intended to get contaminated with a lethal dose – so for the ~500000 inhabitants of Staten Island alone, that’s about five tons)
    2.) agent dispersal mechanism (have you ever seen how complicated e.g. the BLU-80/B Bigeye looks inside? And that’s for a fluid, not a powder, as in bioweapons…BTW, at least part of the material from the 2001-anthrax-letters apparently was rather professionally weaponized…and still didn’t work as advertised, since it didn’t get dispersed correctly!)
    3.) cooling aggregate (that will work during reentry…while the heat exchanger is bathed in radiation from the 5000+°C-plasma-sheath)
    4.) power source for cooling aggregate (powerful!)
    5.) heat exchanger surfaces on the outside (not obstructed by heat-shield)
    6.) insulating material
    7.) (ablative) heat shield for reentry (heat-resistant materials alone won’t be sufficient for this purpose)
    8.) deceleration system (to subsonic speeds in case of bioweapons – remember, release at too high speeds will cook the germs inside of the 1-3 micron big aerosol-particles on dispersal – usually a parachute system consisting of a pilot, a drogue and a main parachute plus an ejection system for all ‘chutes)
    9.) altimeter fuze (for initializing agent dispersal, possibly also the deceleration system)
    10.) power source for altimeter fuze
    11.) about 1.000 other things i forgot to mention (like problems with thermal stress or a ‘frozen’ dispersal mechanism or surfaces hot from reentry acting as sources of ignition…);

    By now, that warhead (assumed that all of these components can be realized – and that is highly doubtable!) is not only so much heavier, but also so much larger volume-wise (-> silo dimensions!) that it will be impossible to fit even on a R-36M/SS-18/Satan, not to speak of the smaller UR-100/SS-11/Sego!

    If i assume that the agent makes up ~10% of the reentry vehicle mass (and that may already be rather optimistic!), we’re talking about something in the range of FIFTY TONS, while the agent compartment (inside of the dispersal mechanism inside of the refrigerator inside of the insulation etc., etc., etc…) alone will require a volume of about FIVE CUBIC METERS!

    And that is for the population of Staten Island alone, Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens neglected!

    Plus: that monstrous warhead dangling from a parachute will be easy prey for every SAM (ABMs won’t be neccessary at those low speeds – PAC-2 will do!) in the vicinity of the targeted area…as i wrote before, once cracked open (or disabled by critical damage to one of those many vulnerable components) at great height, no significant contamination on the ground anymore!

    In comparison, a thermonuclear 25 Megaton warhead on that R-36M/SS-18/Satan ‘only’ (difficult enough!) needs some lightweight insulation, temperature-resistant skin-material and an altimeter fuze with a small battery to kill every (unprotected) human being in a radius of ~12km around the impact point (roughly estimated, about 10 million dead if target is New York – plus total devastation of the city and a huge mushroom cloud with public appeal) without being interceptable by simple means…

  59. Azr@el (History)

    Seriously Jochen, consider that the SS-11 could toss a 1,224 kg mercury reentry capsule ‘cross the divide. The mercury capsule, already rated to deliver a man surface-suborbital-surface with chutes and all, would require few modifications to carry a biochem release package of ~150kg. Further consider that such a package would be delivered in the aftermath of a countervalue strike, meaning no major population concentrations would be left. No organized ABM/SAM batteries would remain in operation. The purpose of a bio-strike would not be to target humans directly, but rather the rodent population who would carry the plague into any remaining dead-ender encampments where rough conditions, lack of sanitation, lack of sophisticated medical care would create a perfect recipe for a pandemic.