Iran Significantly Expands Ballistic Missile Facilities, Reveals Satellite Imagery

World Defense

 Iran Significantly Expands Ballistic Missile Facilities, Reveals Satellite Imagery

Recent satellite images have revealed that Iran is substantially expanding its ballistic missile facilities, a development confirmed by multiple sources and causing significant international concern. The images, analyzed by two American researchers and corroborated by senior Iranian officials, show over 30 new buildings under construction at the Modarres military base and the Khojir missile production complex near Tehran.

Key Sites and Developments

The satellite imagery, provided by Planet Labs, highlights the ongoing construction at two critical locations: the Modarres military base and the Khojir missile production complex. These structures are surrounded by large dirt berms, a characteristic design to prevent explosions from spreading, indicating they are indeed missile production sites. Jeffrey Lewis, a researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, noted that construction at Khojir began in August last year, while expansion at Modarres started in October.

Iran’s Missile Supply to Russia and Allies

This expansion coincides with an agreement from October 2022, where Iran committed to supplying missiles to Russia for its war against Ukraine. According to Reuters, six sources confirmed that Iran has delivered a substantial number of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to Russia. Three Iranian sources disclosed that this provision includes around 400 missiles, notably from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar.

Increased Drone Manufacturing

The new buildings will also facilitate a significant increase in drone production. Iran plans to sell these drones and missile components to Russia and provide drones to the Houthis in Yemen and missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. An Iranian official emphasized the strategic importance of these expansions, suggesting a doubling of drone manufacturing capabilities. This move is seen as a way to bolster Iran’s regional influence and military prowess.

Strategic Concerns for the US and Israel

The enhanced missile and drone production capacity is a major concern for the United States and Israel. Iranian drones have been used to support Russia's assaults on Ukrainian cities, and Iran-backed groups like Hezbollah continue to pose a threat to Israel. The US has imposed various sanctions to curb Iran's missile and drone production and exports. While a US National Security Council spokesperson did not confirm the researchers' assessment, they acknowledged ongoing efforts to limit Iran’s military capabilities.

Historical Context and Future Implications

The Shahid Modarres and Khojir complexes, overseen by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have been central to Iran's missile and space programs. The Shahid Modarres complex, in particular, has a storied history. On November 12, 2011, a massive explosion at Shahid Modarres killed 17 IRGC officers, including Gen. Hassan Moqaddam, the "architect" of Iran's ballistic missile program. Construction at Shahid Modarres resumed after the explosion and accelerated last year, indicating renewed focus on missile development.

As Iran continues to enhance its military capabilities, the international community remains vigilant. The expansion of missile and drone production at these sites signals potential for increased regional instability. With Iran's growing missile and drone capabilities, the geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East and beyond face significant challenges.

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