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Iran Missile a Big Deal

by christian on December 17, 2009


Our boy John Noonan has a good post over at the Weekly Standard that dissects the threat from the reported Iranian missile test yesterday.

First, the Sajjil-2 is a solid fuel rocket. That’s the type of power source that we use in our own Minuteman III rockets, as solid fuel is stable in flight and requires no preparation time ahead of a launch. Liquid fuel, which powers the Iranian Shahab-3 fleet, is highly corrosive and sloshes around in a rocket’s downstage, destabilizing flight and degrading accuracy. It’s so toxic that the fuel eats away at a missile’s internal tanks, and thus needs to be inserted right before launch. That prep time is important, as it gives us a little extra warning prior to a hostile missile launch, which could be used to kill Iranian birds before they fly. With this new Sajjil-2 system, Iran has the ability to keep their missiles hot and ready for execution, killing any chance of an advanced warning or neutralization actions prior to a launch.

Second concern is that this missile is staged. Our Minuteman III ICBMs are a three stage, solid fuel system that have impressive range and accuracy (particularly impressive considering the fact that the fleet is approaching its 40th anniversary). Iran now has a two stage, solid fuel rocket. When they figure out how to add that third stage to the Sajill-2, they’ll have a delivery system with the legs to reach the east coast of the United States.

I tend to just poo poo these tests as grandstanding with souped up bottle rockets, but Noonan knows the threats better than anyone. Design is one thing, and if the Iranians have solid fueled rockets with multiple stages, that’s pretty advanced. But guidence is clearly another technical hurdle entirely and I’m not sure they’re there yet.

But when you’re not targeting specific silos or point detonations and just an air blast over a city, your control systems don’t need to be that refined, do they?

And Noonan goes on to say that the Sajjil 2 design is specific to a weapon system and doesn’t have the characteristics of a space launch vehicle.

Do I see Israeli F-15s being loaded at Ramat David for a Hanukka strike?

– Christian

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

chrisram December 17, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Cocnur with whaty Moose said….it's not a simple matter to wave the 'extra stage' wand and bingo you can lob ICBMs across the globe.

Having said that, they Iranians seem to be pressing to acquire an intercontinental capability, and if they keep on track to acquire nuclear capability then it changes the equation in the gulf. The Iranians seem hell bent on going nuclear no matter what the consequences and this will be their undoing. The Israelis and most likely the US will not allow the Iranians to go nuclear so it seems an airstrike (or several) is in the cards.

You'd think the Iranians would have learned from the Iraqi's experience…..


Wulf145 December 22, 2009 at 7:12 am

You mean not actualy having the Weapons which the US sais they have?


Guest December 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm

pooh pooh.


lars December 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Troubling news, indeed. I'm sure Venezuela's Chavez would love to lob a few of these missiles at the –cough, cough–"imperialistic northern devils."

Imagine what fifteen of these missiles could accomplish if fired from a barge off the east or west coast of the USA and equipped with high-altitude EMP capability.

I'm sure Obama stays up at nite pondering the possibilities…


bobbymike December 18, 2009 at 1:22 am

It really worries me when the naysayers always find excuses not to be a little concerned about Iranian intentions and weapons development. Neutron initiators, meh, solid fuel missiles, no biggie.

When we see a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv what's the response? "It was less powerful than Hiroshima, the Iranians are so primitive"

Time to park a couple of Trident subs in the Indian Ocean (probably already there) and say to Iran " you so much as twitch and say good-night Gracie"


David December 18, 2009 at 4:09 am

Israel started this arms race over there. Now other countries are just trying to get what Israel has had for decades.


billy December 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm

thats a stupid statement. there is no arms race, there is only trying to be armed enough that all your neighbours don't try to kill you (again) (for the 5th time)


Sam December 19, 2009 at 3:10 am

Can you tell us about all "5 times" that the Arabs tries to "kill" Israel?


DualityOfMan December 19, 2009 at 4:04 am

Does it include the part where Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt and Syria?


Cannon Fodder December 19, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Lol, Duality, you just crack me up… Egypt and Syria attacked Israel before, then they load up the borders again with tanks and troops, and for what? Christmas cheer? Israel struck them before they were overun…

DualityOfMan December 22, 2009 at 3:35 am

That's kind of what an arms race is.


CanMan December 19, 2009 at 4:40 am

David, you probably are a self hater, huh? You know, a Jewish man that doesn't much like being one. You kinda fit the profile. That is not a compliment. As a Jewish man myself (hey, a man had better be a little proud of his religious background, it is not like we have a choice as to who we are born to), as an American patriot and as a US Marine…..I think I have your number pal. Care to meet up and discuss this further? Semper Fidelis mates. Uh…not you, David.


roland December 18, 2009 at 9:50 am

I hate to say it, but I think they are beginning to bother me. They at first say they have no nukes, then when they were discovered they have urinium, they say they are going to use it for electricity, now they were found with two sites where they keep thier uranium and was keep on saying its for electricity, now they admitted they going to use it for peacefull means and in some cases they say they are going to use it to protect their country? Foe me I think they are one big liers and a dangerous future foe. If they build thousands of nuclear weapon/ measilles, I guess that is something to worry about.


JMN December 18, 2009 at 3:29 pm

We've watched for most part of this decade as the United Nothings (UN)dramatically failed to resolve this Iranian nuclear program issue.

Conclusion, the Iranians will not stop their program. The Iranian leadership is fanatical and it's only a matter of time before they attack Israel, nukes included!

2nd Conclusion, Israel cannot trust anyone on this life or death matter. If the United Nothings keep failing (and they will) then I hope Israel will to do the deed. Let her hammer Iran's nuclear sites, including missiles.

There will never be peace over there, ever! We might as well accept that fact!



AMMO December 18, 2009 at 11:02 am

Well, I can tell you this much. Solid prop rocket motors have been around longer than you think. Almost all, if not all, of US armament has had solid fuel since the start of the Cold War. We still have some of the old stuff to prove it. It is definitely a big deal though. Liquid fuel is a pain, and whoever said that it doesn’t move around because of the speed of the rocket is incorrect. Take a smaller example, say the AIM9-M. Even the earliest models of these used solid fuel, because it causes an even burn from back to front. Liquid fuel tends to not burn evenly, the properies of which make it impossible when in motion. Therefore, in any kind of turn, the liquid fuel, concentrated in the back, would cause a considerable inertia gain in the tail, throwing the missle offcourse, or at the very least, causing it to overcorrect, and expend more fuel. Solid is obviously an improvement, and improvements to ballistic missles in a country bent on developing nuclear warheads and possibly using them is a bad thing. It’s bad enough that US and other “powers” have them, we don’t need MORE countries trying to get them.


John Noonan December 18, 2009 at 11:27 am

The internet is great, everyone can be a rocket scientist!

Quick point – Solid fuel is optimal. That’s why we use it and the Russians prefer it. Yes Ivan(and Chinese, for that matter) use some liquid fuel and yes you can use storable liquid fuel in alerted sorties, but switching to SF is a jump up for Iran, period.

I’d show a similar level of concern if they managed to work out some storable liquid fuel and stand up rocket/missile forces to alert, but then there’s always the sloshing issue to consider.


Matthew G. Saroff December 18, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Well, thank you Mr. Noonan. I spent most of 1996-2000 years working for Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control. You can see my resume and complete CV at http://www.panix.com/~msaroff/resume .

So, yes, I DID work as a rocket scientist, (the lesson learned was that the French are a PITA) )and have spent most of the past 20 years working on military programs.

I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and while I'm sure it does not count for much versus your degree in History and International Studies on issues like rockets and propulsion, it does mean I've studied the physics and can get back to first principles.

No one is disputing your claim that a solid fuel rocket is an improvement, but that was not your core claim.

Your primary claims were:
* Liquid fuel rockets cannot be kept in a ready to launch status in the silo, which is completely false.
* That the sloshing of propellant makes them grossly inaccurate, which is also completely false (see SS-18 & CEP of 250m).

People are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.


STemplar December 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm

The latest document revealed is possibly the smoking gun, if it is authentic. Neutron initiators are for weapons.

The Iranians don't need accuracy. They just need the ability to lob a functional warhead. A metropolitan area is pretty easy to hit and even a crude nuke makes any hit devastating.

This is a question of political will. I have some deep concerns that we and our 'allies' simply do not possess the political will to act.

If we do decide on a military option I certainly hope we don't limit ourselves to their nuclear facilities or frankly to just air power. I don't think an all out invasion would be smart, but if we could conduct some kind of airmobile or airborne ops and engage large numbers of Revolutionary Guard and annihilate them, that would be worthwhile.

We don't want to just remove the strategic threat, we want to impede the asymetric threat as well, and the only way to do that is to topple the government. Obviously the people are disillusioned with the theocratic tyrants running their nation.


John Noonan December 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Matt, and here I thought we were talking about Iranian missiles, where sloshing certainly is a factor, as well as their inability to alert sorties due to the fuel they use.

I think you’ve got a very impressive resume (I’m not so bold as to post mine online). I would point out, however, that I don’t write for an audience with experience and degrees in rocketry. So I’m comfortable making sweeping generalizations about liquid fuel, as the implications for Iran’s program are still valid.


Matthew G. Saroff December 18, 2009 at 5:58 pm

There are things called baffles in the fuel (and oxidizer) tanks for missiles which minimize sloshing, the physics mitigates against sloshing in the first place, and missiles with liquid fuel can be, and HAVE BEEN placed on alert for months with storable liquid fuels.

If you want to claim that this is a stepping stone to a rapid reaction mobile launcher, or that the use of storable liquid fuels minimizes the potential for accidents (the Titan II had a number of those) fine, but your two claims are completely incorrect.

It's like claiming that snow grows up from the ground, and it only looks like it's falling because the wind blows it around.


STemplar December 18, 2009 at 5:40 pm

I think the point is the Iranians don't need a great missile, just a reliable one to be a huge strategic headache. One that can be launched quickly makes the headache worse.


Jake December 19, 2009 at 2:37 am

I agree with the poster who said Israel started this arms race. When Israel was obtaining nuke weapons most of the world just ignored it. The self righteous US not only turned a blind eye to Israel but helped Israel obtain nuke material from America's own enriching facilities. So America and the rest of the world has no right to tell Iran, N Korea or anyone else what they can and cannot have.
Maybe one day Israel will admit to having one of the largest nuke arsenals in thew world…..


Valcan December 19, 2009 at 2:37 am

……sd know thatn feeLing your gonna have a bad hangovers……./ ihaz itzs.


Joe December 19, 2009 at 4:05 am

That would require a degree of rationality. And the state of israel was not founded on the idea of reason, rather emotion…negative emotion. Guilt and hatred are hardly firm foundations for national survival.

As for un-inventing a weapon system, it has been tried before. Crossbows and poison gas.


Zandor December 19, 2009 at 7:28 am

If it wasn't for our indispensable Allie in the Middle East, the USA would be in grave danger.

As it now is, the USA is safe from harm.

Thank you Israel.


By the way, I am sure that the dead US Navy sailors that were on board the USS Liberty say thanks too.

Israel uber alles!


Vijayan Chomatil December 19, 2009 at 3:08 am

Israel's started this arms race, and if you don't believe it, then explain why they still officially deny having nukes? Still. i think all nukes need not exist, Israel needs to come clean and join some type of salt with iran and Pakistan needs to do the same with India!


STemplar December 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm

People have a lack of historical perspective. Israel was founded by UN resolution 181. I'm not sure when a nation is founded within 24 hours it is attacked on all four points of the compass by multiple hostile powers and barely survives that first onslaught there should be much surprise the nation in question seeks the strongest of deterrent weapon system. Sounds like a rather obvious consequence. No, if there is blame to be laid for the situation in the middle east it needs to be laid squarely at the feet of the international community. It made the situation and then has stood idly by for decades while it spiraled to the point it is currently at.


Cannon Fodder December 19, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Iran is out of control, they recently invade Iraq and take over an oil well. Constantly thumb their nose at the international community. And keep their people pressed under a heavy thumb of oppression.

Israel said they would take action against Iran if changes were not made by Christmas. Thank goodness that Christmas is almost here. It is just sad that no other country will take a stand against Iran other than slapping their wrists with meaningless sanctions. Why does the world think that America (and in this case little ol Israel) always needs to take the lead in military action. Where are the other countries in this??? Oh wait, Russia is involved, but they are busy arming this tyrant nation…


John G. December 19, 2009 at 10:42 pm

It's the whole Ezekiel 38 prophecy in the Bible coming to pass. The Bible states that Israel would be reformed, after God had sent the jews to the ends of the Earth. Not many thought this was possible, but it happened in 1948.

Next it says after they are a nation again, that they would be attack by a coalition of nations, led by Russia. The nations other than Russia listed, including Iran and Egypt, are ALL Muslim nations. The interesting point is that the Bible specificly mentions a part of Russia that today is the Southern Federal District. This is the Muslim section of Russia.

God aids Israel against this force and they are wiped out. The Bible says that It will take 7 months for Israel to bury the invading army's dead.


DualityOfMan December 21, 2009 at 4:46 am

Islam didn't even exist for hundreds of years after New Testament… huh.
Tell me when Russia attacks Israel… it doesn't seem very likely at the moment.


Cannon Fodder December 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Duality I love you man. Russia is already involved with Iran, they are one of Iran's main armorers. Where do you think Iran is getting the tech for their nuclear program?

Time to wake up and smell the Vodka…


DualityOfMan December 22, 2009 at 3:34 am

Is that Russia providing arms or are they actually invading? It's a big difference.

Does it say anything about the United States, by any chance?

Surprise, surprise, nations are attacking nearby nations. If I predicted that England would go to war with France 2,000 years ago, would I be a prophet or making obvious predictions?


Dan D. December 22, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Duality, the statue shown to Daniel in the old Testament (Daniel 2) accurately shows the kingdoms of the Earth that have control over Israel from about 500 BC to present time.

We are at the 10 toes part right now. The world will not end in 2012, as the Mayans say, but many end times prophesies of the Bible have already come true. One of the last is that the Temple in Jerusalem needs to be rebuilt.

Even there, the Temple Mount Institute has already remade all the items needed for the temple. All that is needed is the building and a red heifer. Strange thing, there not been a red heifer that even comes close to the requirements in the Palestine area for about 2000 years. Until 1997 that is…

Efrin December 20, 2009 at 1:26 am

Zander, Israel an ally? Hardly. They take billions from the US every year and give the US back what exactly? Israel spies on the US more than any other country now. All Israel has to do is contact almost any "American" jew and they will betray America without even thinking twice. I'm not saying all American jews put Israel above their native America but alot do. Too most Americans that is unforgivable.
Iran has just as much right to have nuke weapons as any other country. If I was the leader of Iran or any other country in the ME i would get nukes so Israel didn't threaten my country with their own nukes.


Philo December 20, 2009 at 5:07 am

Wow, paranoid much? Israel spies on the US more than it does the islamo-fascists? LOL Are you serious?


DualityOfMan December 21, 2009 at 4:42 am

Except for the rather blatant anti-semetism, you have a good point. The only reason Iran wants nukes is because Israel has them.


Diane December 22, 2009 at 11:57 pm

''Oh,my lord ,my god, help us'' Stand by ISRAEL, DO YOU NOT REALISE WHERE WE ALL CAME FROM, The bigger gun wins the -STOP–the bigger gun-keeps us from war. THATS BOSS, SIR. YOU CAN'T WIN WHAT YOUR AFRAID OF……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
THE LORD IS BOSS…………………………………………………………………………………………


Diane December 23, 2009 at 12:01 am



papa54 December 25, 2009 at 12:29 am

i read some comments on this page and it seems amost all think Isreal should just bust Irans azz and i agree but Isreal best know that our musilum islamic president wont help israel at all and that is when this nation needs tgo expel him and all musilums and islamics out of this country period. we are for the most part a God fearing nation even if the atheiest disagree.. when their car starts rolling end to end in a wreck i bet they holler oh God. we should do as Australia did. get rid of any persons or religeons that give rise to a hatred towards America.


papa54 December 25, 2009 at 12:29 am

look at france. they allowed one musilum cleric assylum and he had the nerve to come against the people who was feeding him and sticking a roof over his head and now 1/3 of france is what??? you guessed it,, musilums or islamics.. same same to me.. this country needs to make a stand for something and stand on that premise. they waver back n forth so much they make me sick, we have politians in congress and as governers etc that cant speak clear english, so where do we stnad? we have a president that to date has not proved he was a natural born American.. and stil we just hoop n holler oh what a great man.. crap whats so great about him… we are deeper in debt now than ever and who to? the red chinese.. somewhere somehow we have got to get reins back on this country and make our stands.. i feel sorry for Israel . as long as Obamass is dictator israel there will never be any support for that nation.. anmd if we were killing the wrong breed of islamics musilums we wouldnt be sending more troops .. we would be running outta that country with ur tails stuck between our legs just as we did in Vietnam.. signed one fed up military connected vet from vietnam.


yaghub January 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm

it's Power of Islamic republic of iran


a1189 December 18, 2009 at 12:44 am

I also thought it kinda weird how the piece implied that solid fuel is somehow more advanced than liquid fuel. Solid fuel is always simpler to make.

And saying somethings more advanced simply because it has more stages is ridiculous. Estes makes 3 stage rockets…..for kids. It depends on the design and capability of the stages.


clowe December 18, 2009 at 1:22 pm


You make no sense. Let me put it to you this way…"my boy" has the keys to doomsday in his hands almost every day. He ain't wrong and he sure as hell ain't "full of it"…


Matthew G. Saroff December 18, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Anyone who claims that any ICBM built after about 1965 cannot sit in the silo fueled for months on end is either lying or incompetent.

The Atlas and Titan I missiles required fueling immediately before launch, because they used a LOX oxidiser, but with the move to storable liquid propellant missiles missiles are in the silos fueled.

To claim otherwise is either a lie or complete ignorance.

As to "fuel sloshing around in the tanks", the CEP of the SS-18 is estimated to be under 250m, that for the Titan II, which was first fielded in the 1960s, was under 900m, which indicates that the driver here is guidance systems, and not some mythical fuel sloshing, which, with a small examination of the physics, would be a mythical effect: At an acceleration of 2 G, lateral forces causing "sloshing" would be minimal.

What we have here is a fanboi who has a hard-on for a strike against Iran, not surprising, because, that's what the Weekly Standard does on this issue.

If "your boy" is a member of a USAF missile wing, which you seem to imply, it would explain why they have had the problems losing nukes recently.


Matthew G. Saroff December 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Iran has been a nation for over 2000 years, though the name was changed internationally (it's been Iran locally since at least 600 BCE) from Persia to Iran in 1935.


DualityOfMan December 18, 2009 at 9:15 pm

With ballistic missiles solid fuel is better than liquid fuel. The Minuteman III, Trident, and Topol-M all use solid fuel.


DualityOfMan December 18, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Do you think OBL (who, by the way, has nothing to do with Iran, so I'm not really sure why we're talking about him anyway) would ever believe we would "cut Israel loose?"

Also you forgot about OBL disliking the US because of basing troops in Saudi Arabia. Even if we did "cut Israel loose" he still has plenty of reasons not to like us.


DualityOfMan December 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm

So OBL is the sole determiner of our policy toward Israel?


Fred December 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Actually, I am more concerned with Osamma Bin Hussain than OBL. Have you noticed the obvious anti-Israel taint since he has become president?


Philo December 20, 2009 at 5:02 am

I'll take Israelis over islamo-fascists every day of the week, hands down. Anti-Semites love to harp on a black mark in US-Israeli relations, decades ago, but ignore decades worth of violent islamo-fascist expansion everywhere.


Dan D. December 20, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Actually the Bible has been dead on.

People study Nostrodomus and will call on psychics to try to learn something about the future, when the Bible already has everything laid out. The writings of Daniel have proven to be 100% accurate so far, yet no one even brings them up when they talk prophecy. Several hundred years of history are laid out in Daniel 11 and if you know history, the events happened exactly as they were spoken.

People deny the truth, because they would prefer to do things their own way. If their is no God, then there is no consequences for your actions. You are not just a product of millions of years of evolution. Your life is not a meaningless existence. Their is a God who has a plan and a purpose for you.


DualityOfMan December 21, 2009 at 4:49 am

Just like Pearl Harbor or Fall Gelb. It's still a surprise attack.


Cannon Fodder December 21, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Two different stories. In Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were at the white house offering our government peace medals whilst their air craft carriers were getting into position, this was a suprise attack. Fall Gelb, wasn't a suprise attack because the nations had already declared war. And come on, it was France.

Egypt and Syria were building up troops on Israel's border for yet another move into Israel. Also they were being threatened just like they are threatened by Iran now. The whole "We will wipe you off the map thing" combined with armor units building up on the border. Israel did the smart thing and moved first before they could be overrun. If we would have known Japan would have attacked at Pearl we would have hit them first…


Jewish December 29, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Down with Israel.OK?!!!


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