|Launch Weight Mass (kg)
|Thrust (Kg f)
|Burn time (sec.)
|1, 1, 1
* May have been derived from existing Chinese designs.
The Iranian Shahab-4 missile is believed to be a derivation of the 1,350-1,500 kilometer range North Korean No-dong missile delivering a 1,000-760 kg warhead and the follow on Taep'o-dong-1/Paeutusan-1 launch vehicles. The first indications of the development of the Shahab-4 came in The Washington Times on September 11, 1997 when it stated the following: "The Shahab-3 and 4 programs appear to be getting considerable assistance from China and Russia."(1)
Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 missile programs are discussed in this article. Shahab-3, is credited with 930 miles (1,496 kilometers) range while the Shahab-4 is credited with 1,240 miles (1,995km) whose prototype appearance is believed to be 2-3 years (1999-2000) away. It also stated an Iranian Diplomat was arrested in Moscow, Russia in 1997 as he was trying to buy missile blue prints.
The earliest suggestion that the SS-4 engines or missile airframe could be a part of the Shahab program came from, The LA Times, on February 12, 1997 when it republished the first reports initially released in the Israeli press during January 1997. The Technology transfer from Russia involved " detailed instructions on how to construct the weapon delivery system, U.S. Sources said." There is also some indication that some parts of the SS-4 were transferred. (2) The Washington Times, February 13, 1997 reported that some of the guidance systems components and detailed plans to build the SS-4 was what was transferred to Iran. (3) It is critical to point out this did not necessarily give the Iranians detailed design drawings of the SS-4 missile airframe, and its RD-214 rocket engine or the associated documentation on the hardware. Nor did it give them copies of the actual hardware much less the precise engineering drawings of each part or the materials and technology to produce and duplicate that technology. This transfer only provided them with the detailed plans on how to produce the launch vehicle.
The only application where the Iranian's could apply this acquired production technology is in the Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 boosters programs. However this assumes the Iranians can or desire to duplicate that technology. Certainly this production technology could take three to five years under the most optimal of conditions to duplicate assuming it has the political will, economic vitality, facilities infrastructure, materials, in addition to the trained, educated and experienced personnel to support an expensive effort of this magnitude. However, to assimilate that production technology it may take Tehran years beyond their intended design development cycle for those launch vehicles presently under development or planned. Therefore, they are left with no other alternative but to work with the in hand existing North Korean launch vehicle technology, that they currently possess, and their rework of it to create the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 programs in cooperation with North Korea. If there is anything the Iranian's have learned from the SS-4 engine and or its rocket body production information it is how to apply it to the design they are developing for the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 and 6 boosters first stage which was already well along in development. Clearly the transfer of technology limits imposed on the Iranians is having a serious affect on their progress as is evident in the Shahab-3 program.
|Taep'o-dong-1 / Shahab-4
Range to Payload/Throwweight Trade-offs
All the existing 149, SS-4's were scrapped or placed in school laboratories or put on display in museums in 1991 because of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Force Treaty, (INF). However the SS-4 warheads, guidance system, engines along with other instruments and useful components were not destroyed. Those components were either sent back to the manufactures for use in other programs or were sent to other specialized destruction centers.
By October 18, 1997 it was stated in the Washington Times that: "Iran was just three years (2000) from fielding the first of two versions of the North Korean, No-dong missile called the Shehab-3 and 4... ."(4) On July 29, 1998 The Washington Times stated that the Iranian Shahab-4, (the North Korean Taep'o-dong-1/NKSL-1) which has a range of 1,240 miles (1,995.16 km) will require 2-5 years (2000-2003) to appear.(5)
The Shahab-4 is projected to include improved guidance components, a two stage version would have a range of 2,000-2,200 kilometers while the three stages Shahab-4 could potentially have a range of 2,672-2,896 kilometers range with a warhead weight on the order of 1,000-760 kilograms. The Shahab-4 would be capable of hitting targets as far away as Germany and Western China. The Iranian Zelzal project provided for the rework development of the North Korean No-dong missile with a 1,350-1,500 kilometer range.
Israeli sources claimed that Russia provided Iran technology from the SS-4, which has a known maximum range of 2,000 kilometers (which is more than sufficient to reach Israel). Iran's Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani's quoted in the February 8, 1998, issue of Florida Today, that the "Shahab-4 rocket now in development would be used to carry satellites into space--- not for military purposes. The Shahab-3 missile is the last military missile Iran will produce,…. We have no plans for another war missile."
However in November of 1997 he had previously said that, "Iran was developing a missile with a greater range than the Shahab-3... ." (6)
The Washington Times provided supplemental information on March 2, 1999 quoting from the Iranian defense minister's Ali Shamkani, press conference of February 7, 1999, "that the engine tests of the longer-range Shahab-4 will begin soon." (7)
On July 16, 1999, The Washington Times noted According to Kenneth R. Timmerman, President of Middle East Data Project, Inc. that new booster testing activities was observed at the Iranian Missile test center "near Shahroud East of Tehran in late April". "We've seen them stack stages, then taking them down over the past six weeks," (April May and early June 1999) one analyst said. "This strongly suggests they will be launching a multi-stage missile.". (8)
It was suggested in the above noted report that the Iranians have stacked and un-stacked this apparent Shehab-4 class multi-staged missile during a six week period of May through July 1999. This published report fails to clarify whether the missile in question was the Taep'o-dong-1 or the new Taep'odong-2 or an Iranian derivation on those designs possibly utilizing solid motor upper stages. Whether this was a build up to a flight test of the Shahab-4/NKSL-1/Taep'o-dong-1 or Kosar (See Shahab-5 & 6) an IRIS booster or more ground testing and or an Iranian evaluation of North Korean technology is unclear. The passage of over two years from this event with the lack of a successful launch appearance of the Shahab-4 or IRIS booster would tend to suggest that this series of tests was an evaluation that portended the at least temporary shelving of the Shahab-4 program. This would have been done in favor of the primary follow on goal of the development of the Shahab-5, and 6 program which could ultimately occur in 2001 or later in 2002-2003.
If the rocket in question is an SS-4 rocket body or SS-4 engine based satellite launcher it would have been erected not stacked on the pad as is done with the Taep'o-dong-1/NKSL-1 class booster rocket. This in itself probably means that the Shahab-4 is indeed based on the Taep'o-dong-1 ballistic missile technology with Iranian indigenous redesign refinements being added to the design. The SS-4 class technology can only be applied to the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 and 6 class booster since the Taep'o-dong-1 is known to be based on the No-dong and Scud-B technology. Further observations are required to determine the origin and nature of the Shahab-4.
The Shahab-4 satellite launch vehicle as well as the Shahab-5/LRICBM/Kosar and Shahab-6.htm"> potential satellite launch vehicle/LRICBM have now been identified as being an apparent Iranian variant of the North Korean Taep'o-dong 1 and 2 missile series by the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC). Alternatively NAIC also suggested that the Iranians may be using solid propellant upper stages based on acquired Russian technology and or requested purchase of assistance from China. (9)
During the spring of 2000 it was unclear which variant of North Korean hardware was being developed by Iran for the Shahab-4/NKSL-1/Taep'o-dong-1 and Shahab-5/Kosar/IRIS, and or Shahab-6 launch vehicles.
The first launch of the Shahab-4 may be less than a year away once the technical issues if any or political issues holding up the flight are resolved. It has also been suggested that Iran will deploy the Taep'o-dong-1 as a ballistic missile with out flight testing it based on the North Korean test flight. This as we shall see is highly questionable.
To answer this question a basic analysis process must be used in order to be reasonable certain of the results. This process is to define what they have said or published as compared with what they are building verses what they are doing with what they are building as compared to what they have said. If there is a clear lack of information on something except for small hints then this is a major flag that something is indeed going on that needs to be closely examined. What follows is a continuation of that analysis process.
There is also the possibility that Iran may simply forgo the Shahab-4 since it is ultimately only a test bed pathfinder program for the larger launch vehicle the Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 programs. How Iran intends to carry out the flight testing of the Shahab-4 remains to be seen if at all. Iran will in all probability follow the testing program conducted by North Korea launching a satellite with the Shahab-4 derived from the Taep'o-dong-1/Paeutusan-1 launch vehicle design as suggested by Iran's Defense minister.
However, this does not make sense since North Korea has already scrapped the launch pad and gantry umbilical tower used in the Taep'o-dong-1 flight test program. They have built in place of that facility a new replacement launch pad and gantry umbilical tower to accommodate the Taep'o-dong-2 and follow on satellite launch vehicle systems. This confirms that the Taep'o-dong-1 class booster was purely a flight test bed pathfinder launch vehicle program for the follow on Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 class launch vehicle design.
North Korea agreed to a moratorium on missile testing in exchange for aid from the United States and other nations. In the meanwhile, modifications to the Taepo'dong-1 launch facility were completed in the fall of 1998 and spring 1999 to make it capable of accommodating flight testing of the Taep'o-dong-2. These modifications are the primary reason why the U.S. intelligence community stated in the spring of 1999 that North Korea was ready to flight test the Taep'o-dong-2. It has been suggested that the Shahab-4 missile is based on the Russian/Soviet SS-4 IRBM and its open cycle RD-214 rocket engine. However this is questionable because of INF and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) requirements. The design of the Shahab-4, Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 are not at all that well understood based on the available public information. However based on the trends seen in Iran's missile development programs to date it must be assumed that they will not try and reinvent the wheel at this time until they have gained much more experience in managing these high technology programs. Therefore Iran can be expect to utilize continued North Korean missile technology development regardless of the suggested Russian missile design and engine technology transfer.
What may be creating the confusion for the U.S. Intelligence community is the first stage propulsion system of the Shahab-3 and 4 verses what is to be used in the Shahab-5 and 6 program. All of these launch vehicles are expected to use the same propellants used on the Shahab-3 and Taep'o-dong-1 boosters. The Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 launch vehicles are powered by a single thrust chamber open cycle No-dong engine, that is based on circumstantial evidence derived from a Russian Isayev engine. Iran had two choices it had to decide on for its chosen propulsion system for the Shahab-5 and 6 first stage. In both cases it would use a total of four thrust chambers but there the difference divides. They could use four No-dong engines in a cluster, which would be difficult to fit in the already specified missile body diameter. Otherwise they had to develop a new turbo-pump for the four No-dong thrust chambers. Clearly Iran's Designer General chose to try and develop a new turbo-pump with foreign assistance. Fortunately the initial Iranian effort to acquire that kind of hardware from Russia was cut off by the Russia industry government cooperation before it got started. What they did after that is any bodies guess but can be surmised circumstantially from the fact that certain schools in Russia and China may have provided the education "Know How" to finish the job over time. It is also presumed that with China's help North Korea may have completed that effort for both itself and Iran. It is presumed here that Iran may have worked together with the North Koreans as well as provided the financial backing to move the effort along in-spite of the flight test moratorium by North Korea.
The static test firings of the Shahab-3 and 4 missile would have only shown the single thrust chamber static test firing to the U. S. Intelligence community. But if they observed a cluster firing of four thrust chambers they probably could have been confused as to whether this was a No-dong thrust chamber cluster firing or a SS-4, RD-214 engine thrust chamber cluster firing. Imagery wise they probably could not tell the difference even though the No-dong cluster would be smaller than the SS-4 cluster size but the image signature would have been very similar in shape. The flame signature would have identified the identical known propellants as being used.
What has not been said on the SS-4 issue is very revealing. The SS-4 uses TM-185 a hydrocarbon based fuel and AK-27I Nitric Oxide oxidizer propellants which NPO Trud has never had the experience of working with. The actual engine used in the SS-4 single stage missile is the RD-214 engine that was developed by NPO Energomash - Gas Dynamics Laboratories. In all of the various accusations suggested not once has Energomash's name come up for discussion since they were the designers and developers and producers of the engine. In fact the engine's from the SS-4's were to be returned from Lesnaya in the Former Soviet Union to Energomash for use in civil space boosters when the 149 deployed SS-4's were scrapped into sections in 1991 under the INF treaty documented requirements. The warheads were separated and sent to appropriate recycling facilities while the engines, guidance systems and other useful components were saved and warehoused in Russia. NPO Yuzhnoy the Yangel SKB Yuzhnoy Design Bureau and Dedicated Factory located in Dnipropetrovsk the Ukrain originally designed and produced the SS-4. Its production for field deployment was later taken over by NPO Yuzhnoy's dedicated factory SKB Polyut Production Association - which has not produced the SS-4 in many years. In both cases neither organization has come up in the suggested discussions on the SS-4 and SS-5 issue. SKB Polyut does still produce the C-1/ SL-8/Kosmos, SS-5 derived space booster with it's RD-216 two engine clustered first stage. There simply is no certain answer in the public realm on whether the SS-4 or the Taep'o-dong-1/NKSL-1 booster are the basis of the Shahab-4 or the Shahab-5/Kosar satellite launch vehicles with this update except for the strong circumstantial evidence. The fact that NAIC seems along with the rest of the U. S. Intelligence community to have dropped the SS-4 concept in favor of the North Korean Taep'o-dong reworked model approach certainly seems to suggest that this is what is going on.
The Washington Times, on September 22, 1999 quoted the Air Intelligence Agency, National Air Intelligence Center of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio report entitled "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat." Which discussed several issues related to the Iranian missile programs. Those quoted comments from the NAIC publication were as follows:
"Iran is working on the development of at least two medium-range ballistic missiles, The Shahab-3 and Shahab-4. The Iranian defense minister has also stated that a Shahab-5 missile is in development. The Shahab-5 probably will have a longer range than the Shahab-4 and may be an IRBM. (Intermediate Range Ballistic missile)."
The article went on to quote from other officials to the affect that the U. S. Intelligence community believes that, "Iran's long range missile program will be disguised as a space program." It went on further to state that a senior U. S intelligence officer had said in a briefing that, "Iran appears to be developing long-range missile "in a step-by-step approach to get to the ICBM's."
"Clearly they're progressing on a path,…more likely following this … rather than a copy cat approach,".
It went on to suggest from the officials statements that the alternative approach for Iran to follow was to do what North Korea did when it developed the Taep'o-dong-1 launch vehicle. That is it could use the No-dong Iran's Shahab-3 and Scud-B/Hwasong-5 Iran's Shahab-1 and adding a solid motor third stage plus warhead to create what would be a very limited range ICBM. They also added that the Iranians could follow the North Korean Taep'o-dong-2 design approach to what would be a LRICBM with a range limit of 3,400 miles (5,470.60 kilometers). They seemed to suggest that the Taep'o-dong-2 design approach was the better way to go. (9) On February 9, 2000, The Washington Times, disclosed the following information, "The  engines arrived in Iran on Nov. 21, (1999) after they were spotted being loaded aboard an Iran Air Boeing 747 cargo jet that left Suinan International Airfield about 12 miles north of-----Pyongyang (North Korea)". These are the same engines used in No-dong MRBM.
The article went on to state that China is continuing to "sell missile technology to North Korea despite promises ---", and it also stated that the Iranian's are working on the, "longer range Shahab-4 --- ."
Then the article went on to describe several design alternatives for the use of the engines by Iran that could be used to create a Taep'o-dong-1 class booster. Among those design suggested for the Shahab-4 was to duplicate the Taep'o-dong-1 class booster by reworking the Taep'o-dong-1 design. Alternatively they could utilized the No-dong engine applied to the first stage of the Shahab-3 toped by another Shahab-3 with the same engine as a second stage with a solid motor third stage and warhead added. (10) It is definitely known that Iran is receiving No-dong engines from North Korea based on two separate intelligence documented events disclosed by the Washington Times that have been publicly published. This is perhaps the strongest series of possible indication that the North Korean and Iranian ballistic missile and satellite launch vehicle programs are almost one and the same programs.
Quoting from "Mr. Robert Walpole National Intelligence officer for Strategic and nuclear programs from Congressional testimony in the Washington Times of February 10, 2000 "Those engines are critical to the Taep'o-dong Program,-----of the North Korean's Long-range missile. And They would be critical to the Shahab-3 program and any extensions of the Shahab-3 program".
--------" The CIA analysis also said North Korea has not stopped developing its Taep'o-dong long-range missile----". (11, 13)
NBC News on February 23, 2000 noted the following, " Iran's Defense minister last year publicly acknowledged the development of the Shahab-4 originally called it a more capable ballistic missile than the Shahab-3 but later categorizing it as solely a space launch vehicle with no military application. Iran's defense minister also has publicly mentioned plans for a "Shahab-5""----. (12)
On September 13, 2000 hearing U.S Senate discussion Mr. Walpole National Intelligence officer for Strategic and nuclear programs stated:
"Iran's Defense minister announced the Shahab-4, originally calling it a more capable ballistic missile than the Shahab-3, but later categorizing it as a space launch vehicle with no military applications.
Tehran also mentioned plans for the Shahab-5 strongly suggesting that it intends to develop even longer-range systems in the near future.
Iran has displayed a mock-up satellite and space launch vehicle (IRIS), suggesting it plans to develop a vehicle to orbit Iranian satellites------- Most believe that Iran could develop and test a three-stage Taep'o-dong-2 type ICBM during this same time frame, possibly with North Korean assistance. -----ICBM booster capability and that a Taep'o-dong-type system tested as a space launch vehicle would be the shortest path to that goal.
TD-1 could be developed patterned after the NK approach or use it as a test bed to TD-2 etc. TD-1 is the test bed for the TD-2 larger technology. Iran is insisting on the development of an indigenous effort, which takes longer to develop. (13) It was suggested at the time that the Taep'o-dong-2 will be deployed without flight testing by North Korea according to the NAIC. Research and development on the Taep'o-dong-2 continues unabated according to these reports.
The Iranian flight test of the Shahab-4/Taep'o-dong-1/NKSL-X-1 derivation satellite launch vehicle should have taken place with in a years or so of February, March, or April 1999. This is when static test firings of the Shahab-4 booster engines were to have taken place. That is if Iran had chosen to go that way. It did not as is now apparent.
The no show launch appearance of Iranian's Shahab-4 booster after over two years of being expected certainly indicates some kind of program problems or portends a program redirection that has developed delaying that flight test or the project has been mothballing in favor of something better. It was seen being stacked and de-stacked several times on its launch pad near Shahroud East of Tehran, Iran in late April through early June 1999 buy U.S. intelligence imaging systems as stated before. This situation was confirmed on July 13, 2001 by the Ha'aretz, news paper in Israel, with the following statement, "It also appears that development of the Shihab 4, whose range is estimated to exceed 2,000 km, has been put on hold." (14)
"Israeli sources believe this is a temporary hiatus which may originate in political considerations and pressure from the European Union and the U. S." (14)
To analyze the question concerning the status of the development of the Shahab-4 missile we have to stick with the trends seen to date while being mindful of the new Middle East report suggestions. More recently on September 7, 2001 it was suggested that the Shahab-4 development program is slowly continuing. It was suggested that the Shahab-4 program has been impacted by "a slow down in Russian aid," and it was further suggested that the program "has been taken over by China."(15) The report went on to suggest that Iran is under considerable pressure from "The European Union, to stop the Shahab-4 program," and that the published report suggesting that the program had been "temporally shelved" (14) was a "result of Iranian disinformation". (15) It was also suggested in this Middle East Newsline report that the missile technology transfers from Russia to Iran's missile program had been "significantly reduced under President Vladimir Putin" presidency. (15)
This report, suggesting the continued development of the Shahab-4, flies in the face of the trends previously noted on the historical development of the Shahab-4 program. Under the best conditions, based on what is thought to be understood on this Shahab-4 program, it can only be considered to be a pathfinder program for the much more serious Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 program as previously noted. However, Iran's defense minister has suggested, as previously noted, that the Shahab-4 will be used to launch a satellite. This however, does not preclude Iran's final development of the Shahab-4, while masquerading as a space booster, designed to be a ballistic missile.
The United States has, through the Department of State and the Bureau of Arms Control, expressed considerable concern that several of the rogue states of North Korea, Iran and Pakistan are trying to disguise their ballistic missile programs "under the guise of peaceful space-launch programs." (16) The September 14, 2001 article, in the Middle East Newsline, further suggested that "China is a significant contributor to the", Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 programs. (16) This was previously suggested on this Iranian missile web site as actually having been requested of China by Iran.
In fact North Korea also has abandoned its Taep'o-dong-1 booster in favor of its Taep'o-dong-2 booster program. They scrapped the launch site pad and gantry umbilical tower and built an entirely new launch pad and much taller gantry umbilical tower to handle the Taep'o-dong-2 and follow on redesigned booster systems. More recently inn late June or early July 2001 North Korea used that launch pad to static test fire the Taep'o-dong-2 integrated first stage and four thrust chambered engine or engines. The firing was done with the first stage sitting up vertically on the pad firing downward into the pad flame bucket, which ducts under the gantry umbilical tower. The burn mark from that firing was very prominent according to the imagery news reports. The North Korean launch site and its combined gantry umbilical tower and flame bucket use the same plan form as that used by China in its Long March launch vehicle launch facilities design. There should be no surprise in this realization of the Chinese influence on this North Korean program.
If as it does appear circumstantially that Iran and North Korea are cooperating both ways then perhaps the political decision was correctly portrayed by the Iranian Defense Minister when he initially said that the Shahab-4 program was a better long range ballistic missile than the Shahab-3. Then he some months later said that the Shahab-4 was to be used as a space booster only and that Shahab-3 was Iran's last long range ballistic missile for war that it would be developing. (6 , 7)
Could this reflect that the Iranian military began to have second thoughts as they assess the technological limits of the Taep'o-dong-1 design and its serious limitations for military applications as a strategic system? Clearly this was North Korea's assessment since it was only designed as a technological pathfinder launch vehicle for a better larger higher performance Taep'o-dong-2 class system which would carry out the assigned tasks with greater certainty of successful results verses the marginal performance of the Taip'o-dong-1 system. But it must also be stated here that the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5/6 class system is even less viable as a strategic deployable ballistic missile but is better suited to be a space booster than the marginal performance Taep'o-dong-1 booster.
The question of concern is whether Iran will in fact flight test the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5, 6 class booster for North Korea and Iran in place of North Korea? This is because North Korea can not afford to do so because of its international agreements not to flight, test its ballistic missiles. Equally this would imply that Iran did not want to waste its time and money repeating the Taep'o-dong-1 pathfinder program and instead chose to go for the real systems engineering goal instead nearly two years ago. Surely the political leadership of Iran recognized the geopolitical impact of Iran attempting to launch a satellite and perhaps succeeding would create considerable pressure on their regime thus the decision to shelve the Shahab-4 marginal system in favor of the Shahab-5 more capable system can be understood.