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Europeans say Iranian satellite launcher could be intermediate-range ballistic missile

An Iranian infographic says the Ghaem-100 satellite launch vehicle could be used to carry a nuclear warhead. (Iran Metropolis News Agency)

The Ghaem-100 satellite launch vehicle (SLV) that Iran unveiled on 5 November could be used as an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), the British, French, and German governments said in a joint letter to the United Nations Security Council.

“Modelling and simulation of the elements constituting the Ghaem-100 indicate that, if converted to a ballistic missile role and equipped with a 500 kg warhead, it would provide Iran with a rapid route to an intermediate-range ballistic missile,” they said in the letter, which was released on 29 November.

It did not give a specific figure, but IRBMs are generally classified as having ranges between 3,000 and 5,500 km, meaning one based on the Ghaem-100 would be able to reach Berlin and possibly cover all of Europe.

The letter noted that the Ghaem-100 was launched by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which includes Iran's strategic missile force, using a mobile launcher, and demonstrated an “extensive crossover of technologies with the development of long-range ballistic missiles”.

These included the SLV's three-stage solid-propellant design and use of lightweight composite materials and a flexible-nozzle control system. The launch was the first time the large-diameter solid-propellant Rafe motor was used as the first stage, the letter noted.

The IRGC announced on 13 January that the new Rafe (also spelt Raafe and Rafee) had been successfully tested, and released footage of a rocket motor on static test stand that appeared to have a moving nozzle, enabling it carry out efficient course corrections. Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of its aerospace force, said the Rafe generates 66 tonne of thrust.

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