New satellite photographs have revealed the secret site where Iran is suspected of developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets in Europe, The Times reported on Friday.
According to the British newspaper, the imagery pinpointed the facility from where the Iranians launched their Kavoshgar 1 “research rocket” on February 4, claiming that it was in connection with their space program.
Experts who analyzed the photos, which were taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch, said they revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles), The Times said in its report.
The Kavoshgar 1 rocket that was launched in the presence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said Iran was in need of an "active and influential presence in space".
'An important strategic facility'
The Times quoted one expert as saying that said the Kavoshgar launch did not demonstrate any significant advances in ballistic missile technology “but it does reveal the likely future development of Iran's missile program”.
The report said that the site, about 230km southeast of Tehran, and the link with Iran's long-range program, was revealed by Jane's Intelligence Review after a study of the imagery by a former Iraq weapons inspector.
Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was quoted by The Times as saying that there was a recently constructed building on the site, about 40 meters in length, which was similar in form and size to the Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea.
According to Forden, the examination of the launch site revealed that it was part of a large and growing complex “with very high levels of security and recent construction activity”. It was clearly “an important strategic facility”, he said.
Jane's Intelligence Review claimed that the satellite photographs prove that the Kavoshgar 1 rocket was not part of a civilian space center project but was consistent with Iran's clandestine program to develop longer-range missiles.
The Time reported that during a meeting on February 25 between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Iranians, UN inspectors confronted them with evidence of design studies for mounting nuclear warheads on long-range missiles. The Iranians denied any such aspirations.