"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

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Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Missile Testing

Missile Testing

India Tests Ballistic Missile for Subs

Kelsey Davenport

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

The test of the missile, known as the K-4, took place off the southeastern coast in the Bay of Bengal using a submerged pontoon. The two-stage, nuclear-capable missile traveled approximately 3,000 kilometers, the news accounts said.

India did not immediately publicize the missile test. But The Hindu on May 8 quoted officials who were present at the test as calling it “excellent” and saying that they would conduct “many more missions” like it to increase the reliability of the missile.

The K-4 eventually is to be deployed on Indian submarines, the first of which is currently undergoing testing.

Avinash Chander, director-general of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said May 13 that India would be conducting a test launch of the K-4 from the INS Arihant “within the next few months.”

The DRDO is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new, advanced military technologies.

India announced the successful development of a shorter-range SLBM, the K-15, in July 2012 and indicated at that time that the longer-range K-4 was under development. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to the DRDO, the K-15 has a maximum range of 700 kilometers for a 700-kilogram payload.

Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

India is planning to develop four nuclear submarines in total, and the boats are designed to carry four K-4 missiles or 12 K-15 missiles. New Delhi is planning to deploy the submarines by 2023.

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarinelaunched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

South Korea Tests Longer-Range Missile

Kelsey Davenport

South Korea last month successfully tested a new ballistic missile that is capable of hitting all of North Korea, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said at an April 4 press briefing.

According to spokesman Kim Min-seok, the new missile can deliver a 1,000-kilogram payload at a range of up to 500 kilometers.

The missile was launched from a test site on the west coast of South Korea on March 23. The launch was the first to take advantage of a 2012 agreement between Seoul and Washington allowing South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles.

Under a 2001 agreement with the United States, South Korea had been limited to developing ballistic missiles with ranges of no more than 300 kilometers for a 500-kilogram payload. But in October 2012, Washington and Seoul announced a revision to the 2001 agreement, allowing South Korea to extend the range to 800 kilometers. (See ACT, November 2012.) The revision kept the payload cap at 500 kilograms.

Kim said that South Korea plans to develop missiles with an 800-kilometer range.

Under these revised guidelines, South Korea will be able to target any site in North Korea from anywhere in its own territory. At the time that the October 2012 revision was announced, the United States said the range extension would allow South Korea to improve its ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

North Korea is believed to have several varieties of operationally deployed ballistic missiles, including the Nodong, which has a range of approximately 1,300 kilometers. North Korea also is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), although it has yet to conduct a successful test of a missile in that category. It has displayed ICBMs in parades, but many experts have said those missiles were mock-ups.

The (North) Korean People’s Army complained in an April 5 statement that Seoul did not provide adequate warnings that it was planning to test the missile.

NK News, an independent website focused on developments in North Korea, reported April 7 that international organizations that provide alerts on missile launches for maritime and aviation purposes were not told that the launch would take place on March 23.

South Korea last month successfully tested a new ballistic missile that is capable of hitting all of North Korea, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said at an April 4 press briefing.


What Kind of Glasses Do You Need to See Iranian ICBMs?

By Greg Thielmann As warnings of the Iranian ICBM threat continue to emanate from the halls of Congress and the sound bytes of strategic missile defense advocates, it is worth taking a moment to observe the yawning gap between the rhetoric and the evidence. During an interview last Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left no doubt that he wished to underscore the threat to the United States posed by Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs): "[The Iranians are] building ICBMs to reach...the American mainland within a few years. They're pursuing...

Korean Missile Envy

By Greg Thielmann The 800 kilometer range arc for missiles from Seoul. Credit: Al Jazzera The United States and it close ally, the Republic of Korea (ROK), have just scored an "own goal" by agreeing to allow ROK development of longer-range ballistic missiles – a move that will set back international efforts to discourage the proliferation of ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Seoul announced an agreement on October 7 that the United States would support the ROK's development of 800 km range/500 kg payload missiles, which would allow Seoul to target all of the Democratic...

Making Lemonade from the Bitter Lemons of Israel's Nuclear SLCMs

By Greg Thielmann The German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel carried an eye-catching cover story last week on Israel's secret program to deploy nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on German-built submarines. For more than a decade, outside observers have speculated about whether Israel's nuclear arsenal has included a sea-based component. Spiegel's dramatic account provides a compelling and detailed confirmation of the German Government's intimate involvement in facilitating the development of this capability. Although Israel continues to maintain a policy of "opacity," neither-confirming-nor-...

Long-Range Ballistic Missile Development: A Tale of Two Tests


May 10, 2012
By Greg Thielmann

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North Korea's failed attempt to launch a satellite from its Unha-3 space rocket on April 13 and India's successful flight test of the Agni-5 long-range missile on April 19 marked significant events in the ballistic missile development programs of the two countries. These two ballistic missile test events not only reveal technical information about system performance, but also invite reflection on U.S. policy responses.  

The demonstration of North Korean failure and Indian success is only the most readily accessible feature of the story. The broader implications for U.S. nonproliferation and security policies are more complicated and less obvious. Both cases imply U.S. failure to accurately assess threats and to adopt appropriate responses for mitigating those threats.


North Korea's failed attempt to launch a satellite from its Unha-3 space rocket on April 13 and India's successful flight test of the Agni-5 long-range missile on April 19 marked significant events in the ballistic missile development programs of the two countries. These two ballistic missile test events not only reveal technical information about system performance, but also invite reflection on U.S. policy responses.

South Korea Unveils New Missile

Peter Crail

A week after a failed North Korean long-range rocket launch, South Korea on April 19 announced its deployment of a new cruise missile capable of hitting targets anywhere in North Korea.

“Now, our military has indigenously developed and deployed a cruise missile with the world’s top precision and striking capabilities that is capable of hitting all areas of North Korea promptly,” South Korean Defense Ministry policy planning chief Maj. Gen. Shin Won-sik told reporters the same day.

He said Seoul’s new missile capabilities would be used to retaliate against “another reckless provocation” by Pyongyang. Tensions flared between the two countries in 2010 when North Korea shelled a South Korean island and is believed to have sunk a South Korean naval vessel.

The cruise missile South Korea unveiled, called the Hyunmu-3C, is believed to have a range of 1,500 kilometers carrying a 450-kilogram payload. Such a capability appears to exceed the range limit on which South Korea and the United States had agreed in 2001 when Seoul joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a grouping of countries aimed at preventing the spread of missiles capable of delivering nonconventional warheads. The MTCR currently has 34 members.

Before joining the MTCR, Seoul already was subject to a 180-kilometer-range cap on its ballistic missiles under a 1979 agreement with Washington, but the two countries agreed to increase the cap to 300 kilometers in 2001 after years of negotiations. The agreement’s range limit on cruise missiles is believed to have been higher, at 500 kilometers.

South Korea is already believed to have deployed a 1,000-kilometer-range Hyunmu-3B cruise missile.

Missiles that can deliver 500 kilograms to distances of at least 300 kilometers, a capability often associated with nuclear delivery systems, are designated Category I systems under the MTCR and are subject to the group’s strictest rules on transferring technology. The payload of a missile affects its range, with heavier warheads decreasing the potential range of the missile.

The MTCR governs the transfer of missiles and missile technology and does not place limits on countries advancing their own missile capabilities. Since 1993, however, the United States has had a policy of requiring that countries joining the group adhere to MTCR Category I missile restrictions for their own missiles as well.

Over the past several years, South Korea has lobbied the United States to extend the agreed missile range limits. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told reporters March 21 that he believed bilateral discussions on the issue would produce an agreement “soon.”

“The 300-kilometer-range [limit] was set many years ago, predicated on the assumption that any fighting would be around the Demilitarized Zone” separating North and South Korea, Lee said.

Noting that North Korea has extended the range of its missiles and long-range artillery to cover the southernmost South Korean territory, Lee added, “South Korea is in need of expanding its defense posture in case of any contingencies.”

Diplomatic sources said that although there are no formal ongoing talks on extending the missile range limit, South Korea and the United States coordinate closely and are holding informal discussions.

A week after a failed North Korean long-range rocket launch, South Korea on April 19 announced its deployment of a new cruise missile capable of hitting targets anywhere in North Korea.

Banning Long-Range Missiles in the Middle East: A First Step for Regional Arms Control

By Michael Elleman

Although the goal of ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is receiving increased attention, it remains a distant prospect. Achieving such an ambitious goal will require a series of incremental steps even to begin the process. An agreement that bans the development and possession of ballistic missiles capable of flying more than 3,000 kilometers and includes members of the Arab League, Iran, Israel, and Turkey is a reasonable first step toward a WMD-free Middle East.

Pursuit of a regional ban on these long-range missiles naturally would begin with negotiations, a process that by itself could help ease tensions, generate better understanding, and build trust across the region. An agreement on the ban, although modest in its aim, would yield a tangible result that sets a precedent and breaks some of the taboos surrounding arms control in the region. More importantly, perhaps, the successful implementation of the agreement would create new bureaucracies that advocate for disarmament and institutions that assume responsibility for the implementation of arms reduction measures. At a minimum, the region would be one step closer to ridding itself of the world’s most dangerous weapons.

The proposed ban is achievable principally because it would not impinge on the core security interests of any country in the region. No state would be asked to relinquish its capacity to defend against or deter a regional rival, and few states in the Middle East face threats from outside the region. The one exception might be Iran, with its concerns about the United States. Yet, the United States has key interests, allies, and military bases throughout the region that could be held at risk by Tehran’s current missile arsenal.

Moreover, outside powers are likely to embrace and promote the regional missile ban and may go as far as pressuring reluctant regional actors to agree to the prohibition because it serves their individual and collective national security interests. The ban eliminates the threat to Europe posed by missile proliferation in the Middle East. In addition, the absence of intermediate-range and intercontinental missiles capable of reaching major portions of Europe would reduce NATO-Russian tensions by obviating the need to deploy the latter two phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense, which Moscow fears could degrade Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.[1]

A regional ban necessarily would consist of two complementary components. The first implements measures to prevent the development of intermediate-range missiles in countries within the region that do not already have them. The second verifiably eliminates current stocks of missiles that exceed the proposed range limit.

Presently, only three countries in the region have the technical wherewithal and industrial capacity to develop intermediate-range missiles. Israel, according to media reports, already fields the medium-range Jericho-2 and possibly the intermediate-range Jericho-3 missiles that are believed to have been manufactured domestically.[2] Iran is actively developing the Sajjil-2, which has a range of 2,000 kilometers.[3] The experience and knowledge accrued in developing the Sajjil-2 provide Iran with the means to build viable, long-range missiles in the future.[4] Turkey could create the capability if it invested the proper money and time into the effort. Egypt, Iraq, and Syria have pursued short-range ballistic missile development programs in the past. Yet, there is no evidence to suggest they seek to create longer-range systems in the near to medium term, nor do any of these countries have the technical capacity to support development of an intermediate-range missile for the foreseeable future. Finally, one country, Saudi Arabia, has purchased intermediate-range missiles from a foreign source, in 1988 when Riyadh imported DF-3 systems from China.[5]

Preventing New Capabilities

Countries wishing to create new ballistic missiles, with or without foreign assistance, must undertake extensive flight-test programs as part of the development process to validate performance parameters, verify reliability under a wide range of operational conditions, correct inevitable design flaws, and train military forces to operate the missile. Flight tests, which cannot be concealed, provide outside observers the data needed to characterize missiles under development and to forecast future capabilities with considerable confidence.

An in-depth review of ballistic missile development programs undertaken worldwide over the past seven decades, most notably those conducted by China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, the former Soviet Union, and the United States, reveals that flight testing involves at least a dozen launches, often many more.[6] Germany, for example, flight-tested more than 300 A-4 (V-2) missiles before it began firing them at targets in western Europe during the closing months of World War II. France averaged about two dozen test launches when developing each of its ground- and sea-based strategic missiles. The United States and the Soviet Union/Russia test-fired considerably more for a majority of the missile systems they made operational during and after the Cold War. China used 18 flight tests during the development of the JL-1 missile. Even Iraq, during its war with Iran in the 1980s, when striking Tehran was viewed as an immediate strategic imperative, tested the 600 kilometer-range al-Hussein missile 10 times over a two-year period before using it against the more distant cities in Iran. The al-Hussein was not even a new missile, developed from fundamentals. Rather, it was a modified missile made from Soviet-produced Scud components.

Historical data also show that flight-testing campaigns associated with the development of new missiles require three to five years to complete. There were exceptions, but they were rare, involved minor modifications to existing systems, included multiple tests per month, and were performed by countries with rich experience developing missiles. These conditions do not exist in Iran, Turkey, or other countries in the Middle East today and will not exist in the coming decade. In any event, when the few exceptions did transpire, the minimum time, regardless of circumstances, was still about two years.

The need to conduct flight-test programs to develop an operational system suggests that if the countries in the region could be persuaded to forgo such activities, no country could create and field longer-range systems without assuming considerable if not excessive technical and operational risk. There is nothing in Iran’s history of missile development, for instance, to suggest that it would accept such risks. Tehran did not induct the Shahab-3 into military service until 2003, five years after receiving Nodong missiles from North Korea and initiating test launches. Modifications to extend the range of the Shahab-3, resulting in the 1,600 kilometer-range Ghadr-1, required three to five additional years of testing. Development of the Sajjil-2, which continues today, has been ongoing since it was first flight-tested in late 2007. The caution Iran has exhibited while developing conventionally armed missiles suggests convincingly that if it were to fashion a small nuclear arsenal, it would not fit the highly prized payloads to missiles with unproven performance or reliability. In addition, there is no evidence to suggest Israel, Turkey, or any other state in the region could defy the history experienced by others.

The testing requirement should be exploited to promote a regional flight-test ban on intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The range-payload characteristics of an intermediate-range missile would have to be defined by all of the parties involved in the final agreement, although an envelope of 3,000 kilometers and 500 kilograms seems reasonable.

Space launch vehicles, which Iran, Israel, and others, including North Korea, are unlikely to relinquish, would not be included in the proposed regime. Although it is certainly true that space launchers and ballistic missiles are founded on similar technologies, there are fundamental differences between the two systems. Space launchers are prepared for flight over a period of many days, if not weeks. Components and subsystems can be checked and verified prior to launch, and the mission commander can wait for ideal weather before initiating the countdown. If an anomaly is encountered during the countdown, the launch can be delayed, the problem fixed, and the process restarted. Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, must perform reliably under a variety of operational conditions and with little advance notification, like any other military system. These operational requirements must be validated through an extensive test program before a missile can be declared combat ready.

Although space launch activities offer an opportunity to accumulate some of the experience and data that could aid efforts to develop long-range ballistic missiles, the results have limited application to ballistic missiles. Only a fraction of the overall development issues can be addressed when operating the system as a satellite launcher. Converting a proven space launcher into a ballistic missile would still require two to five years of additional testing in the ballistic missile mode. In fact, the universal trend has been to convert ballistic missiles into space launchers, not the opposite. The Soviets, for example, used the R-7 intercontinental missile to launch its first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Likewise, the U.S. Redstone missile was modified and used to place into orbit the Explorer-1 satellite a few months after the unprecedented Soviet success. The Chinese CZ-2 launch vehicle was founded on the DF-3 ballistic missile technology and components.

Space launches, however, cannot be ignored and must be closely monitored by states within the region, as well as outside powers, precisely because they could contribute to a missile development program by offering validation of fundamental concepts, such as those for propulsion systems, stage separation, and testing procedures. Consequently, countries that insist on developing and operating space launchers must conduct these activities with maximum transparency to avoid suspicion. The protocols established under the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation could serve as an initial foundation for promoting transparency and trust among all parties adhering to the regional ban on intermediate-range missiles.

States in the Middle East could go further and establish a monitoring authority to oversee space-related activities within the region and perhaps facilitate reciprocal visits by member states to observe launch activities. To ensure compliance by member states, Russia and the United States could share data from their respective sensor networks with the monitoring authority. Indeed, the monitoring authority could serve as a verification center for the broader ban on intermediate-range flight tests. Participation by Russia and the United States would be key, as they are the only two countries with the suite of space-based sensors and ground-based radars capable of detecting and tracking ballistic missile tests or space launches from the Middle East.

Reaching agreement on a regional prohibition on flight-testing intermediate-range missiles is not an insurmountable task. Iran has publicly declared that it has no interest in developing a missile capable of distances of more than 2,000 kilometers. As recently as July 2011, Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace division, insisted to Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency in Iran that “the range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime,” adding that “the Americans have reduced our labours.… [T]heir military bases in the region are in a range of 130, 250 and maximum 700 km in Afghanistan which we can hit with [our presently available] missiles.”[7] Of course, there are valid reasons for doubting Hajizadeh’s words. Yet, when one considers Iran’s strategic priorities, his claims seem reasonable. Iran’s most distant strategic target is Israel, about 1,000 kilometers from launching points near Iran’s border with Iraq. Operational security and prelaunch survivability, however, demand deployment zones far from the border. Extending the minimum range requirement to roughly 1,600 kilometers, as Iran has achieved with the Ghadr-1, facilitates the launch of missiles from secure locations in the heart of Iranian territory. The Sajjil-2, once developed fully, will have a similar range capability when carrying significantly heavier payloads of up to 1,300 kilograms.

Iran might dismiss or reject a ban on intermediate-range missile tests as an infringement on its sovereign rights. Taking such action, however, would turn the country’s nuclear diplomacy on its head. Iran already is the only country to have pursued development of a 2,000 kilometer-range missile, the Sajjil-2, without first having acquired nuclear weapons. Seeking still-longer-range delivery vehicles only would increase existing doubts about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

Iran might attempt to hedge or delay acceptance of a regional test ban by insisting that Israel and Saudi Arabia first verifiably eliminate their respective Jericho-3 and DF-3 missiles. Convincing Israel and Saudi Arabia to accept such plans will not be easy and cannot be assured. Nevertheless, success could be achieved if the incentives and diplomatic pressures were sufficient.

Israel and the Jericho-3

Surprisingly, persuading Israel to relinquish its intermediate-range ballistic missiles might be easier than convincing Saudi Arabia to part with its DF-3s. Israel presently has little strategic imperative for deploying missiles with a range greater than 3,000 kilometers, as the primary threats to the country reside within the Middle East. The whole of Iran, for instance, can be covered by Israeli missiles with a range of 2,800 kilometers. Moreover, Israel maintains a range of delivery options for its strategic payloads and need not rely on ballistic missiles to deter distant rivals.

Israel’s fleet of advanced fighter-bomber aircraft, which consists of roughly 80 F-15s and 300 F-16s, has no war-fighting rival in the Middle East. The aircraft are operated by the best-trained pilots in the region and carry sophisticated avionics packages that can defeat the air defense systems of any adversary in the region. Its airborne refueling capacity enables Israel to strike targets well beyond the combat radius of the F-15s and F-16s. The long-standing strategic U.S. commitment to the country ensures that Israel will not have a conventional military peer within the region. Washington’s promise to transfer to Israel its most advanced aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, once available, is one example of the pledge.[8]

Israel also maintains a second-strike force consisting of submarine-launched cruise missiles.[9] The fleet includes three diesel-electric powered submarines built in Germany for the Israeli navy. Each submarine is believed to carry a handful of Popeye or Popeye-Turbo cruise missiles. There is considerable debate about the performance capabilities of the Popeye-Turbo, but it appears certain that the missile has the capacity to deliver the small 200- to 300-kilogram nuclear payloads Israel is believed to have manufactured.[10] Two more submarines are under procurement, with scheduled deliveries of 2013 and 2014.[11] Once all five submarines reach operational status, Israel would have at least two boats on patrol at any given moment.

Ballistic missiles afford Israel a third weapons delivery option, but there is some uncertainty about what systems have been deployed and how they perform. The Jericho-1 was designed, developed, and tested by the French firm Marcel Dassault Aviation in the late 1960s, and either the missiles, the technology, or both were transferred to Israel for deployment in the early 1970s.[12] The Jericho-1 is thought to have a maximum range of 480 to 750 kilometers, with a reported payload capacity of 500 to 1,000 kilograms.[13] A technical assessment of the Jericho-1 suggests the missile has a 500-kilometer range when carrying a 750-kilogram payload.

The Jericho-1 missiles are likely obsolete. There are persistent reports that Israel replaced them with the two-stage, solid-propellant Jericho-2, whose development likely began in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Flight testing commenced in 1986, with initial deployment around 1990. Reports claim the Jericho-2 has a maximum range of 1,500 kilometers when fitted with a 1,000-kilogram warhead. However, based on the Jericho-2’s dimensions and the likely propellant loads and type, the missile should have a range of roughly 2,500 to 2,800 kilometers. Israel’s Shavit space launcher appears to be derived from Jericho-2 technology and components.

Some reports suggest that Israel has worked to create a three-stage Jericho-3 missile. Such a missile would significantly extend Israel’s strategic reach to well beyond 3,000 kilometers. Two flight tests of the Jericho-3 have been reported, one in 2008 and another in 2011.[14] The minimal number of flight tests suggests that the Jericho-3 is not combat ready. Adding to the mystery surrounding the Jericho-3 is the possibility that the two firings were satellite launches and not missile tests. Whether the Jericho-3 exists is somewhat irrelevant, as Israel certainly has the technical and industrial wherewithal to develop the missile.

As discussed above, the diverse mix of strategic delivery options offers Israel considerable flexibility, and subtracting intermediate-range ballistic missiles is unlikely to degrade the country’s nuclear deterrence capabilities. Israeli acceptance of a regional ban on intermediate-range ballistic missiles seems feasible, especially if it is sold as a first step in a comprehensive effort to halt the Iranian nuclear program through the more ambitious WMD-free-zone concept. A U.S. offer of increased financial and operational assistance to Israel’s extant missile defense programs and continued supply of advanced military technology, including the F-35, should help induce Israel’s acceptance of the regional prohibition.

Convincing Saudi Arabia

As explained above, neither Iran nor Israel appears to hold compelling military or strategic imperatives that demand intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The strategic calculus in Riyadh, however, is less clear. Convincing the Saudis to relinquish their DF-3 missiles may prove to be the most difficult challenge to achieving the ban.

In 1988, Saudi Arabia purchased 30 to 50 conventionally armed DF-3 (CSS-2) intermediate-range missiles from China. Negotiations with Beijing reportedly began soon after the United States refused in 1985 to supply the Saudis with short-range Lance ballistic missiles and an additional 40 F-15 fighters. The DF-3 was not intended to fill a gap created by the U.S. refusal to supply the Lance, a battlefield missile with a range of about 100 kilometers. Rather, as the Saudis claimed at the time of purchase, the DF-3s were acquired to deter Iran and other potential adversaries in the Middle East. Given Saudi fears at the time of purchase that Iran would widen the war with Iraq by attacking targets in the kingdom or one of its Gulf Cooperation Council allies, this rationale is not implausible. The Saudi decision may have also been driven by country’s pattern of acquiring advanced weapons, both symbolic and militarily useful systems, to enhance its international status and establish itself as a major regional power.

The single-stage, liquid-propellant DF-3 has a maximum range of roughly 2,600 kilometers when carrying a warhead weighing slightly more than 2,000 kilograms. When armed with a 1,000-kilogram payload, however, the range grows to about 3,100 kilometers, which exceeds the proposed limit.

Saudi Arabia is rumored to have recently acquired two-stage, solid-propellant DF-21 or Shaheen-2 missiles from China or Pakistan, respectively.[15] The DF-21 and Shaheen-2 missiles are more accurate and reliable than their DF-3 counterparts, they are easier to maintain and operate, and they offer greater mobility, which enhances prelaunch survivability. Upgrading the arsenal with the more modern missiles also bestows greater prestige on Saudi Arabia, although the newer missiles have a reduced range capability. Nonetheless, if the rumors are accurate, it seems reasonable to conclude that Saudi Arabia is in the process of replacing its obsolete DF-3s with 2,000 kilometer-range DF-21 or Shaheen-2 missiles, in which case Riyadh could painlessly decide to scrap the DF-3s altogether, unilaterally or in conjunction with the proposed intermediate-range missile ban.

If the rumors are inaccurate, Riyadh may hesitate to accept a deal that does not yield a replacement capability. Because the DF-3s are old and likely no longer serviceable, even with continued Chinese maintenance efforts, the Saudis might be convinced to eliminate the missiles if they are promised additional fighter-bomber aircraft and advanced missile defense systems. A military assistance package that includes the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and the Aegis Ashore system, with its Standard Missile-3 interceptors, might prove too tempting to refuse. Yet, even with such inducements, Saudi Arabia may be reluctant to forfeit the DF-3 because of its symbolic value.

Moving Forward

The international community, perhaps led by China, Russia, the United States, and key member states of the European Union, should seek to persuade countries in the Middle East to negotiate and agree to a verifiable regime that prohibits the possession or flight testing of intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. As outlined above, a combination of incentive packages and diplomatic pressure almost certainly will be required, but the precise nature of the inducements will not become clear until the key parties from the Middle East begin negotiations and define their objectives and concerns.

Russia and the United States could begin by offering to create jointly the foundations of a regional monitoring authority whose initial purpose would be to house data on missile and space launches from the region. At first, the database would consist of information gathered by Russian and U.S. sensors and might later be augmented by voluntary submissions to the monitoring authority from countries within the region. The transparency created by the monitoring authority could be used to build a minimal level of trust, from which negotiations on the basic parameters of a ban on long-range missiles could begin.

In addition to the diplomatic benefits of contributing to the successful conclusion of a sensitive negotiation, Russia and the United States could gain security benefits from participating. A verifiable ban on long-range missiles would remove most or all of the basis for the planned deployment of the later phases of the U.S.-NATO missile defense system in Europe. U.S.-Russian disagreements over European missile defense currently are an irritant to U.S.-Russian relations and, in particular, are a major obstacle to further arms reductions.

The negotiations on a Middle Eastern missile agreement undoubtedly will be difficult, as many issues bedevil relations in the Middle East beyond ballistic missile inventories. The lack of peace between Israel and Palestine, historical enmities, territorial and sectarian disputes, and asymmetries in military capabilities are just a few of the issues that could derail progress on a missile agreement.

The United States and the Soviet Union also faced seemingly insurmountable challenges during the height of the Cold War, yet both parties found it in their respective interests to work together on arms control. Sharing their experiences in negotiating arms control measures is one contribution that Russia and the United States could make to the WMD-free zone, although the lessons learned during the Cold War have limited application to the conditions and dynamics of the Middle East. Indeed, the additional complexities underline the importance of finding a measure that does not collide with long-standing security tenets of any of the affected states and therefore can serve as a first step in what undoubtedly will be a long and tortuous path to a WMD-free Middle East.

Michael Elleman is senior fellow for regional security cooperation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and is principal author of “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment” (2010). He spent 20 years developing ballistic missiles at Lockheed Martin Corp. before joining the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission as a missile expert for weapons inspection missions in Iraq. From 1995 to 2001, he led a Cooperative Threat Reduction program in Russia aimed at dismantling obsolete strategic missiles.


1. For an analysis of the Phased Adaptive Approach and its effectiveness against the current and future Russian deterrent, see Dean A. Wilkening, “Does Missile Defence in Europe Threaten Russia?” Survival, Vol. 54, No. 1 (February-March 2012): 31-52.

2. Andrew Feickert, “Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Foreign Countries,” CRS Report for Congress, RL30427, March 5, 2004.

3. There is no internationally recognized missile classification scheme. For the purposes of this article, ballistic missiles are categorized into four classes: short-range missiles are capable of traveling distances of 1,000 kilometers; medium-range missiles, between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers; intermediate-range missiles, between 3,000 and 5,500 kilometers; and intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 5,500 kilometers. For the purposes of this article, “long-range” missiles are those that exceed the proposed limit of 3,000 kilometers.

4. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment,” 2010.

5. Jim Mann, “U.S. Caught Napping by Sino-Saudi Missile Deal,” Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1988, p. 1.

6. For details, see IISS, “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities,” ch. 3.

7. Parisa Hafezi, “Iran Fires 14 Missiles in 2nd Day of War Games,” Reuters, June 28, 2011.

8. Alon Ben-David, Amy Butler, and Robert Wall, “Israel, U.S. Strike F-35 Technology Deal,” Aviation Week, July 7, 2011.

9. James Hackett, ed., The Military Balance (London: IISS, 2010).

10. Uzi Mahnaimi and Matthew Campbell, “Israel Makes Nuclear Waves With Submarine Missile Test,” London Sunday Times, June 18, 2000.

11. “Germany Sells Israel More Dolphin Subs,” Defense Industry Daily, February 6, 2012, http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/germany-may-sell-2-more-dolphin-subs-to-israel-for-117b-01528/.

12. “Dassault Lève Le Voile Sur Le Missile Jericho” [Dassault lifts the lid on the Jericho missile story], Air & Cosmos, December 6, 1996, p. 36.

13. See, for example, GlobalSecurity.org, “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” July 24, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/israel/missile.htm; Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Israel: Missile,” November 2011, http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Israel/Missile/index.html.

14. Yuval Azoulay, “Missile Test ‘Will Improve Deterrence,’” Haaretz, January 18, 2008; Anshel Pfeffer and Reuters, “IDF Test-Fires Ballistic Missile in Central Israel,” Haaretz, November 2, 2011.

15. GlobalSecurity.org, “Saudi Arabia Special Weapons,” July 24, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/saudi/index.html; Jeffrey Lewis, “Saudi Missile Claims,” Arms Control Wonk, June 8, 2010, http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/2761/china-and-saudi-bms.

Although the goal of ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is receiving increased attention, it remains a distant prospect. Achieving such an ambitious goal will require a series of incremental steps even to begin the process. An agreement that bans the development and possession of ballistic missiles capable of flying more than 3,000 kilometers and includes members of the Arab League, Iran, Israel, and Turkey is a reasonable first step toward a WMD-free Middle East.

India Announces Successful Agni-5 Test

Eric Auner

The Indian government announced on April 19 that it had successfully conducted the first test of the nuclear-capable Agni-5 ballistic missile.

The Agni-5 is the first Indian ballistic missile capable of reaching almost the entire Chinese landmass, including Beijing, as well as the Middle East. India was already capable of reaching all of Pakistan, India’s other nuclear-armed neighbor, with its existing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

The three-stage Agni-5 is solid fueled and can carry a 1,500-kilogram payload a distance of 5,000 kilometers, according to news reports. The missile was fired from Wheeler Island, off the eastern coast of the country.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the test “another milestone in our quest to add to the credibility of our security and preparedness and to continuously explore the frontiers of science.” Singh said that he hoped the scientists involved with the Agni-5 would continue to promote “self-reliance in defense and other walks of national life.” India has long emphasized domestic development of advanced military technologies.

The Agni-5, which is road and rail mobile, according to India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is the latest in the Agni series of ballistic missiles, which have had progressively longer ranges. The deployed Agni-3 has a range of 3,000 kilometers. India tested the Agni-4, which has a range of 3,500 kilometers, last November. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

The DRDO, which is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new advanced military technologies such as ballistic missiles, issued a press release that said the Agni-5’s “composite Rocket Motors have performed well and made India completely self-reliant.” Other indigenous technologies incorporated into the missile included the “Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System” and the “Micro Navigation System,” according to the press release.

In an April 19 U.S. Department of State press briefing, spokesman Mark Toner reiterated his previous statement that the United States “urge[s] all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding their nuclear and missile capabilities” while recognizing India’s “solid nonproliferation record.”

An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) typically is defined as being able to carry a given payload a distance of 5,500 kilometers or more. Given its declared range of 5,000 kilometers, the Agni-5 would be considered an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Media reports and analysts in India and elsewhere have described the Agni-5 as either an ICBM or long-range missile. India could extend the range of the Agni-5 by using a payload lighter than 1,500 kilograms. Generally, nuclear-capable missiles have a payload capacity of 500 kilograms and higher.

Official reaction from Pakistan has been muted. According to a Pakistani official speaking at a press briefing held after the launch, India had informed Pakistan of the launch, consistent with an agreement between the two countries on prenotification of ballistic missile launches.

Pakistan tested the Shaheen-1A nuclear-capable ballistic missile on April 25, according to a press release from the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Public Relations office. The release did not state the range of the missile, but analysts said it was approximately 700 kilometers.

China, with which India fought a war in 1962, has not reacted strongly to the test. In an April 19 statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said, “China and India are cooperative partners rather than competitive rivals.” The Chinese state-owned Global Times, however, published an editorial soon after the test, warning that “India should not overestimate its strength” and that India “would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China.”

Some Chinese analysts have claimed that the Agni-5 actually has a range of 8,000 kilometers, according to the Indo-Asian News Service.

In a piece on the website of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a think tank affiliated with the Indian government, Abhijit Singh wrote that the test may “end up impacting the balance-of-power equation in the subcontinent” as well as “the broader India-China relationship.”

India is not party to any international agreement that limits its ability to develop and test ballistic missiles. When India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1172, which condemned the tests and called on both countries to “cease development” of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Both countries have developed and tested nuclear-capable ballistic missiles since the resolution’s passage.

Meira Kumar, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Indian Parliament’s lower house, called the Agni-5 test “a major leap forward in India’s missile technology and military deterrent capabilities,” according to the Economic Times, an Indian newspaper. Nitin Gadkari, leader of India’s largest opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), “congratulated the DRDO scientists for this proud milestone” in a statement on the BJP’s website.

DRDO Chief Controller for Research and Development W. Selvamurthy told the Indian television program Headline Today that the Agni-5 can carry multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. He said that this capability has been “proven” but was not “demonstrated” during this most recent trial.

Five countries currently possess ICBMs: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. North Korea unsuccessfully attempted to launch a satellite into orbit on April 13 (see page 29). That test, which was widely seen as a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test, was met with international condemnation, including from the United States.

India is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the international group that coordinates export controls for missile technology. The Obama administration is supporting Indian membership in the MTCR and other regimes that limit exports of sensitive technology. (See ACT, December 2010.)

The MTCR does not limit partner nations’ own missile testing and deployments. However, since 1993 the United States has had a policy of requiring that countries joining the group to adhere to the regime’s key missile-range restrictions for their own missiles as well.

The Indian government announced on April 19 that it had successfully conducted the first test of the nuclear-capable Agni-5 ballistic missile.

News Analysis: N. Korea Launches Rocket, Kills U.S. Deal

Duyeon Kim

Corrected online May 8, 2012.

Defying international warnings, North Korea on April 13 fired a three-stage Unha-3 rocket with the aim of launching a satellite into orbit. The rocket failed and exploded into about 20 pieces over the West Sea (Yellow Sea) between the Korean peninsula and China, according to South Korean military officials. The launch, in effect, shattered a Feb. 29 deal made with the United States on halting all missile and nuclear activities.

It was Pyongyang’s fourth failed attempt to test its long-range ballistic technology and its third failed satellite launch since 1998. In contrast to the two previous satellite launches, the North admitted to the Unha-3’s failure despite a publicity campaign that included inviting journalists to view the rocket and satellite.

The Unha-3’s first explosion came in the first one to two minutes of takeoff, and the second came after about eight minutes, according to South Korean military officials, leading analysts to believe the rocket’s failure occurred in its first stage. This is a setback from its third-stage malfunction in 2009, although technical experts say failures are common in rocket and missile development.

The North’s repeated failures suggest it is still a long way from fielding a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, easing fears of this possible threat.

Two days after the launch, Pyongyang rolled out what appeared to be new missiles in its military parade celebrating the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung, the regime’s late founder. Some news reports initially speculated they were mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), recalling comments last June by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about a potential road-mobile ICBM. Specialists on North Korean missiles, however, have dismissed them as mock-ups.

Attention quickly shifted to the vehicles carrying the missiles, amid suspicions that they came from China, North Korea’s main patron. If the suspicions prove to be true, China, a UN Security Council member, could be violating council resolutions it helped pass that ban transfers to North Korea of “resources that could contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs or activities.” According to Japanese media on April 26, a Chinese firm sold eight such vehicles to the North last May.

When asked about potential Chinese assistance to North Korea’s missile program during an April 19 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China,” adding that he did not know the extent of such aid.

Immediately after the North’s rocket launch, Washington halted its plans to ship 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance to the impoverished country. The aid was part of the February deal.

UN Security Council Resolution 1874, supported by China and Russia after Pyongyang’s 2009 rocket and nuclear tests, “demands that the DPRK not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology.” This means any long-range rocket and satellite launch would be considered a ballistic missile test. In Resolution 1718, passed in 2006, the council “decide[d] that the DPRK shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program…[and] abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programme[s] in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” The council’s unanimous decision to use the terms “any launch using ballistic missile technology” indicated a consensus, which still exists, that an attempt to launch a satellite into orbit is part of an effort to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies is said to have clearly reminded his North Korean counterpart, Kim Gye Gwan, of the meaning of this provision during February talks. Sources say, however, the young Kim Jong Un, the country’s new leader, was unable to defy his late father and predecessor’s command to complete the rocket launch, which was timed to mark the Kim Il Sung centennial and proclaim North Korea to be a “strong and prosperous nation.”

Security Council Condemnation

On April 16, the Security Council released a president’s statement, which requires unanimous support, strongly condemning the launch and directing fresh sanctions against North Korean entities and individuals.

The statement was the strongest of its kind, using sharper language than the one adopted after Pyongyang’s April 2009 rocket launch. The language changed from “condemns” in 2009 to “strongly condemns” in 2012, and its description of the act hardened from a “contravention” to a “serious violation” of past resolutions. In the latest president’s statement, the council also “deplore[d] that such a launch has caused grave security concerns in the region.”

A key element of the Security Council statement is the use of a “trigger” clause, in which the council “expresses its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test.” Although a Security Council statement is not legally binding, the provision lays the groundwork for a swift sanctions resolution in the event of a future nuclear or missile test.

The inclusion of the trigger clause is also significant in that Beijing has not blocked it, which may reflect Chinese disappointment after failed attempts in 2006 and 2009 to dissuade North Korea from launching missiles.

In stark contrast to 2009, however, this year’s Security Council statement does not call for the early resumption of the six-party talks or even mention that process, in an apparent reflection of Washington’s hardened stance. China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia, and the United States are involved in those talks.

The council’s statement came just three days after the North’s launch, a job that required eight days in 2009. The quicker response suggests less time for the council to overcome Chinese opposition.

At the same time, however, Beijing may not easily abandon Pyongyang’s strategic value. Although the essence of Chinese-North Korean ties is likely to remain unchanged, some experts say there may be some changes in the way they are maintained, particularly in dealing with a young, new leader after the death of Kim Jong Il.

Beijing’s support for tough Security Council action was followed by its own Foreign Ministry statement calling for dialogue and the implementation of the Feb. 29 agreement between Washington and Pyongyang.

In a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement carried by the country’s state media, Pyongyang rejected the Security Council’s condemnation as “unreasonable” and reasserted its right to a “peaceful” civilian space program. Accusing the United States of leading a campaign to deny it that right, Pyongyang pledged to continue with space launches and vowed to abandon the February agreement.

“We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement,” the statement said. “The U.S. will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences.”

Tougher Stances, New Approach?

Previous North Korean provocations led to a flurry of diplomacy to resume talks. This time, Washington does not seem eager to return to negotiations. Instead, North Korea’s rocket launch seems to have triggered a different approach in the way the United States and South Korea deal with Pyongyang. Instead of initiating more talks with the regime and trying to prevent its every move in its nuclear and missile game, the two allies are aiming at Pyongyang’s human rights violations and the livelihoods of the North Korean people.

“North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry,” according to a White House statement released shortly after the North’s rocket launch.

“The cost of firing one missile is equivalent to six years’ worth of much-needed food and enough money to buy 2.5 million tons of corn,” said South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in an April 16 radio address. South Korean intelligence estimates that the Unha-3 rocket show cost $850 million.

The statements may represent a shift in approach because they strike at a fundamental element of the North Korean regime, sources said.

Washington has made it clear that there will not be any more dialogue but more pressure if North Korea continues with provocations, and the Department of State says Washington is considering its own sanctions in addition to the ones directed under the latest Security Council president’s statement. “We will continue to keep the pressure on them and they’ll continue to isolate themselves until they take a different path,” President Barack Obama said in an April 13 interview with Telemundo.

It seems clear Washington no longer will initiate dialogue with Pyongyang. It remains to be seen if Beijing or Moscow will attempt to arrange a future meeting. In the United States, advocates of engagement are hardening their positions. “Nuclear diplomacy with North Korea is at a dead end. Containing Pyongyang is Washington’s only realistic option,” Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York, wrote in The National Interest on April 19.

The biggest variable in the new paradigm is a third nuclear test or successful long-range missile launch. Either of those can be expected to lead to significant changes in policy toward North Korea.

Tensions have spiked on the peninsula with continued threats by the North against the South. On April 23, North Korea’s military warned of a “nationwide sacred war” to wipe out South Korea for insulting its new leader’s dignity. It threatened to take “special actions soon” through “unprecedented means and methods of [their] own style.” The regime renewed its threats on April 26, warning of damage far greater than its attacks against the South’s Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.

The threats hit back at comments made by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak after the North’s rocket launch regarding its collective farm system and lack of attention to human rights and defector issues.

Meanwhile, media reports have cited government officials and experts predicting an imminent nuclear test. Many analysts even expect a nuclear device using highly enriched uranium (HEU) to further up the ante. North Korea’s previous behavioral pattern suggests the regime may conduct another nuclear test, although that is dependent on time and circumstance. Pyongyang’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 were preceded by missile and rocket launches.

The main technical motivation for continued nuclear testing would be to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and mount it on a missile, technical experts say. Former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker, who has visited North Korea’s primary nuclear complex on several occasions, said in an April 13 Stanford University brief, “I believe North Korean scientists and engineers have been working to design miniaturized warheads for years, but they will need to test to demonstrate that the design works.”

North Korea’s plutonium stockpile has shrunk with its two nuclear tests, and the regime has halted plutonium production since the disablement of key facilities under the six-party talks. Therefore, a plutonium nuclear test may signal satisfactory operations in its uranium-enrichment activites.

Little is known about the North’s uranium-enrichment capabilities, but a uranium nuclear test could indicate an operational uranium-enrichment program, successful production of HEU in sufficient quantities, and a bomb design. All this would equip Pyongyang to build up larger stocks of weapons-grade material.

From a nonproliferation standpoint, a uranium test would have serious implications.

A key question is whether Pyongyang has the political motivation to follow through with any nuclear test in the near future in the face of tougher international attitudes after its unsuccessful rocket launch last month.



Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly said that the second explosion of the Unha-3 rocket came 47 minutes after takeoff.

Defying international warnings, North Korea on April 13 fired a three-stage Unha-3 rocket with the aim of launching a satellite into orbit. The rocket failed and exploded into about 20 pieces over the West Sea (Yellow Sea) between the Korean peninsula and China, according to South Korean military officials. The launch, in effect, shattered a Feb. 29 deal made with the United States on halting all missile and nuclear activities.


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