BY BILL GERTZ
June 18, 1997
Iran is developing a new short-range ballistic missile as part of a joint program with China involving rocket motors and test equipment, The Washington Times has learned.
Iranian missile technicians traveled to China early last month to watch a ground test of a 450mm-diameter rocket motor to be used in the NP-110 solid-fuel missile , according to a Pentagon intelligence report labeled `top secret.'
The missile , which would have a range of 105 miles, would be capable of hitting targets as far away as Baghdad and the United Arab Emirates, while keeping the missile launchers away from coasts, where they are vulnerable to counterattack, said Kenneth Timmerman, director of the Middle East Data Project, which tracks weapons programs in Iran.
The joint missile program also involves Iran's use or acquisition of Chinese X-ray equipment, which is used for studying missile casings and for checking whether solid fuel is in proper condition.
Disclosure of the Iran-China missile cooperation raises new questions about Clinton administration claims that China has been heeding U.S. warnings about curbing trade with Iran and other rogue states on missile and weapons technology.
John Holum, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, told reporters in November, after a visit to China, that U.S.-China collaboration on arms control and proliferation issues was `very constructive,' and said Chinese progress on restricting destabilizing arms sales was `dramatic.'
A classified CIA report in October said China had provided Iran with missile guidance components and technology.
`This is a new [category] of missiles ,' Mr. Timmerman said of the NP-110. `It shows the Iranians have a very advanced and multifaceted capability to produce solid-fuel propellants.'
In written statements to Congress made public last week, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, `Iran's
ballistic program poses a serious threat to American servicemen and women.'
`Iran's ballistic missile program also poses a threat to America's friends and allies in the region,' she said in response to questions by Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon, New York Republican.
The administration has been `reviewing carefully' reports of missile - and weapons-technology transfers from China to Iran but has not decided whether the sales meet legal thresholds for triggering sanctions, she said.
Iran is known to have two types of Soviet-designed Scud missiles , including systems acquired from North Korea or developed in Iran.
Less is known about its shorter-range missile programs, including systems identified variously by military experts as the Iran-130, the Mushak 120 and the Nazeat.
According to Mrs. Albright, the Iranians are `assembling' Scud-B missiles with a range of 186 miles that carry payloads of up to 2,200 pounds.
`Iran is working to produce Scud-C missiles with a range of 500 kilometers [310 miles] and a smaller payload than the Scud-B,` she told Mr. Solomon. `We also believe Iran is interested in developing even longer-range missiles .'
The secretary said that `given Iran's persistent efforts to develop a nuclear, chemical and biological capability, we are concerned that Iran may use this capability to develop weapons-of-mass-destruction warheads.'
The China Precision Engineering Institute New Technology Corp. reached agreement with an arm of Iran's Defense Industries Organization to sell gyroscopes, accelerometers and test equipment--all elements used to build and test missile -guidance systems, the CIA report said.
Other military equipment was delivered in July 1996 as part of a program to modify Iran's Chinese-made HY-2 anti-ship missiles .
Iran currently has about 200 Scud-B and Scud-C mobile missiles . The Scud-B has a range of about 186 miles and the Scud-C can hit targets about 310 miles away.
Iran also is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to be interested in buying 620-mile-range No Dong missiles from North Korea. The No Dong is said to be close to deployment.
A U.S. intelligence report last month also revealed that three Russian entities have signed contracts with Iran to help produce liquid-fueled ballistic missiles . The Russian contracts include projects for wind tunnels used in missile design, model missile manufacture and development of computer software.