Saturday, April 24, 2010

2015? Forget it -DIA: Iran could 'leapfrog' technology to develop a nuclear ICBM


WASHINGTON -- The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that Iran was advancing in efforts to develop an ICBM that could strike the United States.

DIA said Iran could receive critical technology and expertise from foreign countries that would significantly reduce the development period of a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

Iran's missile Sejil 2 is launched by Iranian armed forces in Semnan province on May 20, 2009. Iran says the missiles have a range of nearly 1,243 miles.
UPI Photo/Vahid Reza Alaie/Mehr News Agency

"The Iranians continue to develop a capability in their missile system," DIA director Ronald Burgess said. "They are improving their range and accuracy. If others decide to assist them they could leapfrog that technology as they have given some indication of testing that has been of concern to us."

In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 15, Burgess did not elaborate or identify the potential foreign partners. Officials said the reference was to North Korea, China and republics in the former Soviet Union.

"DIA assesses that, with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States," Burgess said.

The U.S. intelligence community has been vague in determining when Iran would acquire ICBM capabiity. Assessments by the community placed the timetable between 2011 and 2015.

In his testimony, Burgess said he could not provide details of Iran's technological achievements and capabilities in open session. But officials said Teheran surprised the international community with its successful launch of a multi-stage space launch vehicle in February 2009. The SLV was deemed as an indicator of Iran's capability to develop an ICBM.

"Iran displayed its next-generation SLV, the Simorgh, in February 2010," Burgess said. "The Simorgh is much larger than the Safir and shows progress in booster design that could be applicable to an ICBM design."

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