IHS Analysis - Syria - Ballistic Missile Launches Detected in Mediterranean

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Following reports that two "ballistic missiles" moving from the central to the eastern Mediterranean have been detected by Russian radar, IHS analyst Ben Goodlad examines the likely provenance and intention of the launches.

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IHS Analysis - Syria - Ballistic Missile Launches Detected in Mediterranean

  1. 1. Ballistic Missile Launches Reported in Mediterranean Analysis from Ben Goodlad, Senior Defence Analyst, IHS Jane’s DS Forecast
  2. 2. Copyright © 2012 IHS Inc. 2 The story • On Tuesday the 3rd of September two ballistic “objects” were detected by Russian radar moving from the central Mediterranean towards the eastern Mediterranean coast • No sign of a strike on the Syrian capital, Damascus
  3. 3. Copyright © 2012 IHS Inc. 3 Analysis • It is highly unlikely that forces in the Mediterranean have launched a ballistic missile • Whilst naval forces have been building up in the region in preparation for possible action, any ballistic missile strike would have to have been made by a Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) • SSBNs are armed with either Trident missiles in the case of British and US boats or MSBS M51 ballistic missile on board French submarines • These are nuclear weapons providing strategic deterrence and would not be in the manner reported • Any sea-based missiles used on Syria will be US Tomahawk cruise missiles, which follow a far flatter trajectory than ballistic missiles and would not be mistaken as such by early warning radar
  4. 4. Copyright © 2012 IHS Inc. 4 Analysis • It is instead possible that NATO or Israel is carrying out missile defence tests using a short range ballistic missile-type target • Such a target would be used to test missile defence systems such as the US Aegis system or Israeli Arrow 3 • A target missile has similar ballistic characteristics as a missile, however it does not feature a warhead and is intended to merely simulate a launch in order to test detection, tracking and interception capabilities • Given the fact that there was no actual missile strike, this is the most likely explanation for the reported launches • This could be a part of ongoing testing, or it could have been a result of the current situation in Syria with Israel concerned about potential retaliation strikes
  5. 5. Copyright © 2012 IHS Inc. 5 Ben Goodlad is an analyst for IHS Jane’s DS Forecast.

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