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Iran’s Ballistic Missile Arsenal Is Still Growing in Size, Reach, and Accuracy

Tehran has doubled down on the strategic importance of missile systems that can threaten U.S. forces and allies, even as its defensive justifications for such an arsenal ring more hollow than ever.

Digging in Strategically Iran’s efforts on this front have been a subject of scrutiny since at least 1998 when it first tested the Shahab-3 ballistic missile, and the program’s progress has been steady ever since despite occasional setbacks. 

New Systems and Underground Sites Iran has unveiled ten new ballistic missiles and three new satellite launch vehicles (SLVs) since 2015, along with several new transport and launch systems and methods. It has also revealed the existence of multiple underground missile complexes, or so-called “missile cities.

Advances in Precision Guidance and Range Another feature incorporated since 2015 is more capable terminal precision guidance. With the Imad missile, the IRGC could steer a separating warhead for highly accurate (if not precision) guidance at ranges approaching 1,700 kilometers.

From Offense to Defense? As demonstrated in last year’s al-Asad base attack, Iranian solid-fuel semi-ballistic missiles pose a significant threat to nearby U.S. forces and facilities in Iraq, Syria, and the Persian Gulf. They could also be used to threaten commercial shipping in the area along with economic and military infrastructure. While missiles themselves can serve both defensive and offensive purposes, the Islamic Republic’s missile program was founded on a heavily ideological offensive base.

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