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Maduro tells Defence Minister Padrino to begin process of acquiring Iranian Ballistic Missiles

Last Thursday Colombian President Ivan Duque made the bombshell announcement that the Venezuelan regime is seeking to acquire Iranian Ballistic Missiles. Initially I was skeptical that the Maduro regime would allocate their minimal remaining resources to the purchase of further arms systems, when thus far the American government has demonstrated little interest in confronting Venezuela militarily but then in a televised interview Maduro himself confirmed it.

Maduro revealed that he had directed Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino to look into "every possibility" of acquiring short, medium & long range missiles from the Islamic Republic. If the Venezuelan regime did acquire ballistic missiles from Iran there would be significantly different implications depending on the potential range and intended use.

- Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM) -

Fateh-110 - Iran began development in 1995 and first tested the Fateh-110 SRBM in 2001. It launches from a road mobile erector and uses a single stage solid propellant engine to deliver a 500 kg warhead that can be both conventional, chemical or nuclear.

Hormuz 1 & 2 - First unveiled by the IRGC in 2014 the Hormuz 1 & 2 are variants of the Fateh missile reported to utilize an anti-radiation guidance system for attacking radar installations.

Khalij Fars - Also unveiled in 2014 the Khalij Fars is an anti-ship variant of the Fateh missile. Equipped with an electro optical seeker to improve accuracy enough to hit a moving target like an aircraft carrier.

Zolfaghar - In 2016 Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan announced a new Fateh-110 variant the Zolfaghar ballistic missile. With a potential range of 700 km the newest member of the Fateh-110 family is also solid fuelled but has an improved guidance system that Iran demonstrated in a video released by the Ministry of Defence. The video allegedly shows a Zolfaghar hitting a small target but this has not been independently verified.

Raad 500 - Unveiled in February 2020 the Raad 500 is a completely redesigned variation of the Fateh missile that utilizes a BeeNest structure & carbon fiber materials to make it 50 % lighter and increase its range to 500 Km

- Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM) -

Sejjil - Developed by Iran in the late 1990's with assistance from China, the Sejjil missile is road mobile and uses a 2 stage solid propellant system. With a payload of 500-1500 Kg and an estimated range of 2,000 Km it could be capable of reaching much of the south east coast of Florida including Miami & President Trumps favourite vacation destination his Mar-a-lago Golf club in West Palm Beach.

Shahab 3 - Based on a North Korean No Dong 1 missile Iran established the infrastructure in the mid 1990's to assemble a domestic version they named Shahab 3. A single stage liquid propellant MRBM, it can be silo based or road mobile. Due to Iran's history of exaggerating the capabilities of it's weapons systems, the exact specifications of the Shahab 3 are unknown but best estimates place the range at 800-1300 Km depending on the weight of the payload, which could be as little as 760 Kg or as much as 1,200 Kg. In the early 2000s Iran may have explored various fuzing, arming and firing systems to make the Shahab-3 more capable of reliably delivering a nuclear warhead according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

- Long Range Ballistic Missiles (LRBM) -

Qased - In April of this year Iran succeeded in launching the Noor satellite using the Qased 3 stage rocket. The first and third stages are liquid fuelled and the second stage is solid fuel. The satellite was delivered to an orbit of 425 Km and demonstrates that Iran has been making significant progress in their missile program.

- The Threat -

Any of these weapons systems pressence in the western hemisphere would certainly be perceived by the U.S. Government as an escalation on the part of both the Iranian and Venezuelan regimes. The MRBM's in particular would be seen as a direct threat given their ability to strike High Value Targets like Puerto Rico, the Panama Canal, Naval Air Stations Guantanamo Bay & Key West or even Mar-a-lago & Miami in Southern Florida.

Despite their reduced range the SRBM's would still give Venezuela an additional capability they don't currently posses and allow them to threaten many of Colombia's military bases, critical infrastructure and major cities such as Medellín & Bogota. Depending on the type they intend to acquire they could also potentially target U.S. Navy ships in the Caribbean.

On June 22nd an Iranian flagged cargo ship the Golsan arrived in La Guaira Venezuela after a long trip from Iran. Multiple times along the way the ships AIS transponder turned off, first when they were in the Gulf of Oman then the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden. This makes it more difficult to track their location and perhaps not coincidentally these areas are also known to be patrolled by the U.S. Navy looking for weapons being smuggled.

When the Golsan arrived in Venezuela it unloaded and then spent several weeks waiting around before sailing to Puerto La Cruz then Guayana City in south Venezuela. Here it reportedly loaded up on Bauxite at the CVG Bauxilum docks before heading back to Puerto La Cruz and then Caracas and ultimately departing back across the Atlantic in the direction of Gibraltar.

We will likely never know what exactly was on the Golsan but I suspect the Venezuelan regimes claims that it was just consumer goods and food for the new Iranian Super Market Megasis in Caracas are at best a partial truth. If the Golsan shipment was indeed innocent we should see it or ships like it make similar trips in the near future to keep the Super Market stocked with goods, so now we wait because only time will tell.

Written by Simon Bolivar

Information & Graphics from Marinetraffic.com & csis.org