Monday, September 28, 2009

Intermediate Range Missiles

The New York Times this morning headlines one of its stories "Iran reports to have tested long-range missiles." There's a confusion that I've become more sensitive to that is important in the business about Iran, and other holders of missiles. The Times headline perpetuates it, and the story doesn't clarify.

Long is a relative word. But in the world of missiles, it is defined somewhat more precisely than for, say, a long hike, which depends on the capacity of the hiker.

According to that Wikipedia article, intermediate-range ballistic missiles (the kind Kenneth Adelman and others of us would outlaw) have a range of 3,000-5,500 km (1,865-3,420 miles). Above that, we are talking about intercontinental ballistic missiles, the ICBMs of the Cold War. I would call that "long."

The Times, however, is more generous.
Press TV said the Shahab-3 missiles has a range of between 800 and 1,250 miles. Parts of western Iran lie some 650 miles from Tel Aviv.
Doesn't even make it to IRBM status.

This is what is classified as a theater missile, for which reasonable defense exists. It is not what the vastly expensive missile defense installations being hawked by the neocons, with demos built in Alaska, tries to defend against.

Two very different issues.

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