A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Iran Tests Sejil 2 Missile

Iran has tested, reportedly successfully, a version of the Sejil 2 (or Sijil, Sijjil) intermediate range imssile. Speaking in Semnan Province on his re-election campaign, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad noted that the launch, like Iran's earlier satellite launch, had taken place from Iran's launch site in Semnan.

As the NYT article notes, the real significance of this test is that the Sejil 2 is a solid-fueled two-stage missile with a range of some 1,200 miles. Probably 80% of the posts so far on the Internet refer to that as having sufficient range to hit Israel, but of course it also has the range to hit US forces in the Gulf region.

What's really worth noting, though, is that it is solid-fueled. It's in the same intermediate range as Iran's Shahab 3, which is generally considered to be a clone of North Korea's Nodong. But the Shahab-3 is liquid fueled, requiring considerable lead time for fuelling before launch, and the fueling process can easily be detected by satellite. (Think of all those satellite photos of North Korea's recent test while it was still on the pad being readied.) A solid fueled missile can be launched more quickly and stelthily, and can be adapted for a mobile launcher, allowing it to be moved around. It is thus harder for an adversary to take out before launch.

The timing of the launch probably has more to do with the Presidential election in Iran than with anything else, but it will surely raise new alarms among those who are seeking to end Iran's nuclear ambitions militarily.

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