Iran shows underground ballistic missile launch base
Jane's Defence Weekly
Jeremy Binnie, London
Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has provided additional insight into how its underground ballistic missile launch bases work by allowing a TV news crew to film inside one such facility.
The news crew also filmed a ballistic missile being launched from the underground facility. This footage showed terrain that IHS Jane's has been able to match to a base just south of the city of Jam in Bushehr province.
Broadcast by Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) on 8 March, the footage showed a Qiam ballistic missile erected inside a large launch chamber with a circular aperture at the top and a flame trench below to manage the missile's exhaust in the confined space. The launch chamber was sealed from the rest of the underground facility by large blast doors.
The Qiam appeared to be on a version of the erector-launcher mechanism carried by Iran's mobile ballistic missile launchers.
There was no overhead gantry for loading the missiles inside the launch chamber and the erector-launcher appeared to have small wheels and hydraulic stabilisers, suggesting it is loaded elsewhere in the facility and then wheeled into the launch chamber. The hydraulic stabilisers are presumably lowered once it is over the fire trench to fix it in position for the launch.
This would allow a higher rate of fire than if a static system was used, as missiles could be prepared on multiple erector-launchers that are wheeled in and out of the chamber for the launches.
Satellite imagery of the Jam facility suggests it has two underground launch chambers that are 190 m from each other.
If all the IRINN footage was filmed at the same location, then the Jam facility also supports mobile transporter-erector-launchers (TELs).
Dozens of missiles could be seen stored in tunnels, including longer-range Ghadr types that are too tall to erect inside the underground launch chamber.
A Ghadr was seen being loaded onto a TEL in a tunnel using an overhead gantry and then being fuelled. The TEL would then leave the underground facility to launch its missile and then presumably return to pick up another.
Iranian officials generally state that the Qiam has a range of 800 km, which would mean it could reach all the major cities on the Gulf coast, as well as Riyadh and King Khalid Military City in Saudi Arabia, if launched from the base south of Jam.
The Iranian media has reported that the Ghadr-H and Ghadr-F have ranges of 1,650 km and 1,950 km respectively, so only the latter could reach Israel from Jam.
The survivability of Jam and other such facilities during a conflict is highly questionable. Even if Iran's adversaries struggle to destroy the underground missiles bases, they have precision-guided weapons that could be used to block tunnel entrances to prevent TELs entering and exiting and damage the retracting hatches that cover the portals through which the missiles are launched.
Satellite imagery from 7 January 2016 shows an underground ballistic missile launch facility south of the city of Jam. There are two tunnel entrances (shown with red squares) and two launch portals (circled). (Google Earth/CNES/Astrium)
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