Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers
Pathways for Transfer: Dennis M. Gormley,
Aaron Karp and Richard T. Cupitt
April 10, 1998
On 10 April 1998, System Planning Corporation hosted an unclassified
roundtable discussion on Russia for the Commission to Assess the Ballistic
Missile Threat to the United States. SPC assembled three prominent experts
on the alternative pathways to acquire ballistic missile capabilities:
Dennis M. Gormley, of Pacific-Sierra Research Corporation; Aaron Karp, a
professor at Old Dominion University; and Richard T. Cupitt from the Center
for International Trade and Security. This paper summarizes their findings
and notes key areas of consensus and dissent.
Pathways to Missile Technology Transfers: Iran
Aaron Karp's presentation focused on the missile technology transfers by
Russia, China, and North Korea to Iran. Karp noted that there are three
patterns of decision making employed by Russia and China to facilitate
missile transfers to Iran:
The first type of decision making, formal authorization, describes a
deliberate action by the central government to allow, or even encourage,
such exports of technology and missile-related equipment. Karp refers to
the second type of decision making as, informal acquiescence. In such
instances, Moscow and Beijing turn a "blind eye" to transfers which may
serve the national interest. Under this guise, government officials
outwardly support nonproliferation, but do not comply with national export
control guidelines. The third type of decision-making involves
contravention of policy. Karp explained that government officials may not
be able to enforce existing export controls. Private industry willingly
violates the nonproliferation policies set by the central government. To
halt such transfers, action must originate at the industry or government
International Cooperation With Iran
In the mid-1970s, Iran acquired solid motors. A partnership with North
Korea began in 1985; Pyongyang supplied Iran with liquid-fuel rocket
technology from China, which is used with the No Dong missile system.
Reports suggest that Iran has attempted to develop an intermediate range
ballistic missile, the Shahab 3 and 4. The Shahab 3 resembles the Soviet
SS-22 or SS-23, which was deactivated and dismantled under the INF Treaty.
Israeli intelligence have reported that the Shahab 3 could be deployed by
Despite the Israeli assessment, Karp concluded that the program suffers
from numerous technical problems attributed to warhead development and
guidance. Karp estimated that these obstacles may be overcome within
fifteen years, but require significant technical and financial assistance
Iran still lacks trained engineers and financial resources. The need for
trained engineers has forced Iran to look to Russia. Recently, an Iranian
agency employed a Russian firm to develop and design a component of a
ballistic missile system. Also, Baltic State Technical University in St.
Petersburg established a joint program in Persepolis under the direction of
Iran's Sanam Industries Group, an arm of Iran's Defense Industry
Organization (DIO), that directs Iran's solid-fuel rocket program. Karp
suggested that such assistance is extremely problematic for U.S.
nonproliferation efforts. In addition, North Korea has also offered the
services of scientists and engineers to assist Iran's missile program.
Cruise Missile Technology
Noting the NIE 95-19 and the Gates Panel, Gormley outlined potential
acquisition paths for land-attack cruise missiles and the challenges that
the U.S. may encounter from cruise missile proliferation in the future.
Both the NIE 95-19 and the Gates Panel explored the possibility of cruise
missiles being launched from seaborne platforms against the United States.
Gormley stated that cruise missiles provide an alternative launch
capability to states that wish to acquire ballistic missiles. Cruise
missiles, as compared to ballistic missiles, are subject to fewer export
controls, possess increased mobility, have a reduced size, are easily
maintained, and can operate in extreme temperatures. These features--size,
mobility, and rugged design--increase the range of launch options and
heightens the difficulty in defending against the cruise missiles. The MTCR
provides few controls on cruise missile-related technologies, which could
be adapted from commercial aircraft and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). While
many countries possess cruise missiles, most cruise missiles command a
range of under 100 km.
Gormley stated that nations can acquire land-attack cruise missiles two
different ways; through indigenous development and by converting existing
anti-ship cruise missiles or UAVs into land-attack cruise missiles.
Indigenous development is time consuming, but technically feasible. The
increase in commercial aircraft and maintenance requirements aid the
distribution of knowledge that can be transferred from civil to military
The conversion of existing anti-ship cruise missiles or UAVs presents an
entirely different problem. UAVs, which are used in earth observation, are
easily available and provide a platform for cruise missile development.
Gormley stated that the larger and more simplistic anti-ship cruise
missiles much like the Russian Styx and the Chinese Silkworm family, would
be easiest to convert. He noted that the ability to exchange payload size
for increased range is more easily accomplished in cruise missile than in
ballistic missiles. Concerns have arisen regarding in the French-produced
Apache air-launch cruise missile, the Russian AS-15 cruise missile, and the
current Chinese cruise missile in development (with Russian assistance).
Challenges to Monitoring
The NIE 95-19 states that it takes at least five years to field a ballistic
missile after testing starts. This time frame does not apply to monitoring
cruise missile development and deployment. Moreover, cruise missile
technology largely escapes MTCR controls and is often disguised under
commercial aircraft development. Gormley stressed the MTCR must be adapted
to address cruise missile-related technologies. Without adaptations in the
MTCR guidelines to address cruise missile technologies, non-MTCR states
will acquire cruise missile technologies within five years.
Pathways to Missile Technology Transfers: Asia
Richard T. Cupitt focused on missile technology transfers in Asia. He
stated that export controls have limited the transfer of missile technology
into the region and have increased the financial costs of obtaining missile
technology. Although not all Asian nations have adopted effective export
controls, Asian nations want to be portrayed as responsible global
Cupitt has found that the MTCR has limited appeal in Asia. Some Asian
nations view the MTCR as a regulation mechanism imposed by the Western
powers that affects their economic well-being. Most Asian nations
understand the need to control chemical, nuclear, and biological weapon
development, but fail to grasp that the control of missile-related
technology is equally as important. As a result, few Asian nations, with
the exception of Japan and Hong Kong, have export control systems over
missile technology that are compatible with MTCR requirements. Moreover,
export monitoring is practically non-existent without U.S. assistance. The
export agencies do not conduct post-shipment verifications, but rely on
Cupitt pointed out that Taiwan, which is on the fringe of the multilateral
control mechanism, is the exception within Asia, and seeks to gain
membership in the MTCR to limit the export of proliferation-related items.
To further membership aspirations, Taiwanese officials have attended
trans-shipment seminars and Asian export control seminars.
Export licensing catch-all controls are targets for bureaucratic mishaps.
Conflicting pressures from multiple government agencies and industry
encourage disparate applications of catch-all export provisions. While
Japan and European nations interpret export catch-all guidelines narrowly,
the U.S. designates that the export path or the particular end-user is
enough to trigger the export regulations. Cupitt cautioned that removing
catch-all export controls will escalate ballistic missile proliferation.
Closing existing loopholes within catch-all controls, however, will
strengthen efforts to limit missile-related exports.
Improving Cooperation in Asia
The recent East Asian economic crisis may limit the funding for ballistic
missile programs in Asia. At the same time, pressure to export technology
and defense-related items is likely to increase. Cupitt predicted that
given the current export control mechanisms and the emerging industrial
infrastructure, ballistic missile proliferation in Asia is apt to escalate
into the next century. He warned that proliferation efforts are not limited
to high technology exports, but in many cases prevail at lower technology
levels that fall within Wassenaar Agreement, CoCom, and NPT guidelines.