|Iran and Israel: Comparing military machines|
Assessing statistics for the two regional rivals at the heart of the Middle East dispute over nuclear arms.
Regardless, Western powers generally agree that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is at least many, many months away from having a deliverable warhead - if the development of one is indeed its goal.
While a military strike on Iranian nuclear sites is far from certain, the possibility of a confrontation looms nonetheless. A look at the comparative strengths of the Iranian and Israeli forces reveals discrepancies in both equipment, capabilities and numbers of enlisted troops.
Iran has a population ten times larger than Israel's, from which to draw its armed forces, but much of its military hardware is of dubious condition - due to the arms embargo in place since in various forms since 1979.
Many Iranian tanks and planes use older technology with varying levels of maintenance and modernity, says David Roberts, deputy director at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
The country's most recent major engagement was an almost decade-long war with Iraq in the 1980s, after which Iran has credibly maintained a "no first-strike doctrine" along with a code of "plausible deniability" for irregular military actions, he says.
"In a very general sense, it's no secret or cutting-edge analysis that Israel's military is the best-equipped and best-trained in the whole region," says Roberts. "But some sections of [Iran's military] are battle-tested."
"Then again, it's not Iran's conventional forces which are the concern [for the US and its allies]. The Revolutionary Guards are better-paid and organised [than the rest of Iran's military]," Roberts told Al Jazeera. "Their Quds Force and naval capabilities are a big unknown - especially the asymmetrical way that they would fight with these unusual weapons, in small decentralised units."
Roberts also says, while the two militaries are not likely to enter direct army-to-army combat any time soon, they may well end up squaring off via proxy forces in Gulf or Mediterranean states. Any direct confrontation between Israel and Iran would likely involve long-distance aircraft, air-defence weaponry, small naval craft and ballistic missiles.
"The way to best characterise the Iranian view of the Israeli military is to look from the point of view of geography," says Kamran Bokhari, Vice-President of Middle Eastern and South Asian Affairs with Stratfor. "On a map, Israel may not appear too far from Iran, but in reality, they are too far from each other to be engaged in some sustained conflict.
"It's not as though Iran has reach into Israel, and even though Israel has a far superior military, it is unable to wage a [long-term] campaign against Iran," Bokhari told Al Jazeera. "Iranians know that, and aren't concerned about Israel attacking as much are they are concerned about the US ... with assets very close to Iranian borders."
By the numbers
Israel has 176,500 personnel on active service, made up of 133,000 in the army, which includes 107,000 conscripts. The navy has 9,500 sailors on active duty and there are 34,000 in the air force, as well as a total reserve force of 565,000.
Iran reprotedly has more than 523,000 personnel on active service, comprising 350,000 in the army, including 220,000 conscripts. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, viewed as the most loyal guardians of the ruling system, has a further 125,000 soldiers.
Young Iranian men are obliged to serve 18 months in the military service when they turn 19 years old, and volunteers begin at 18 years old. A paramilitary volunteer militia, the Basij Forces (literally "Mobilisation of the Oppressed"), takes members from age 15.
Charged with defending the country's borders and maintaining internal order, Iran's military is comprised of the Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (Artesh), which has ground forces, a navy, an air force (IRIAF) and Khatemolanbia Air Defence Headquarters. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Islami) consists of the Ground Resistance Forces, Navy, Aerospace Force and the Quds Force (special operations).
There are 18,000 Iranian naval personnel and 30,000 air force personnel, including 12,000 in air defence.
Tanks, subs and planes
The Israeli army has more than 3,000 tanks, reported to include 441 Merkava MkI, 455 Merkava MkII, 454 Merkava MkIII, 175 Merkava MkIV and 206 Centurion models.
Iran's military reportedly has 1,613 tanks, including some 100 locally produced Zulfiqar, about 100 ageing British-made Chieftain Mk3 and Mk5models obtained before the 1979 revolution, alongside 150 US-made M-60A1s - as well as 480 Soviet-designed T-72 tanks and 540 T-54/T-55 models, according to the Reuters news agency.
Tehran also has about 640 APCs, in addition to 8,196 artillery pieces - of which 2,010 are towed and more than 800 are motorised.
The Israeli navy has three Dolphin (German-made type 212 variant) tactical submarines - thought to be nuclear-armed in order to give Israel offshore second strike capability - in addition to 57 patrol and coastal combat ships, including three corvettes.
Iran, on the other hand, has a significantly larger fleet of naval craft, containing 23 submarines, including 15 tactical subs; three Kilo-class Russian-made Type 877 diesel-electric attack submarines, 12 midget submarines (Iranian-built Ghadir and Nahang shallow-water vessels made for the Gulf) and eight swimmer delivery vehicles.
The Iranians also reportedly have more than 100 patrol and coastal combat ships, including six corvettes, 13 patrol craft, four patrol boats, 21 semi-submersible boats and 56 various other patrol vessels.
It has 460 combat-capable aircraft, with 168 fighters, including 27 Boeing F15A Eagle, seven F15B and 90 F16A Fighting Falcons. The fleet also includes 227 ground attack fighters and 65 attack aircraft, in addition to nine tanker/transport aircraft and 77 other transport aircraft.
Israel maintains 81 attack helicopters, including 30 Bell AH-1E/AH-1F Cobra and 30 Boeing AH-64A Apache gunships, as well as 200 transport helicopters. Its air defence capabilities include 48 towed surface-to-air missile launchers (SAM) and 920 guns, as compared with the 279 SAM missiles reportedly held by Iran.
Iran's air force is believed to contain some 336 combat-capable aircraft, including 189 fighter aircraft such as 20 US-made F5B jets, 60 F5E Tiger IIs and Russian-made 35 Mig-29A jets. The force is also understoof to have 108 ground attack aircraft, among them both Iranian and Russian-built craft, many of which were reportedly taken from Iraq. The country's 116 transport aircraft were made in China, Netherlands and the US, among other places. The IRIAF also has 30 Bell 214C maritime reconnaissance helicopters.
Iran's approximately 1,000 strategic missiles, believed capable of striking throughout the Gulf and beyond, are reportedly controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, and include around 300 short-range ballistic missiles, including Iranian-made Shahab-1 (Scud-B), Shahab-2 (Scud-C), as well as Tondar-69 (CSS-8).
Tehran has also domestically produced Shahab-3 strategic intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM), with a reported range of up to 1,000km, the Ghadr-1 with an estimated 1,600km range and a Shahab-3 variant known as Sajjil-2 with a reported range of up to 2,400km, according to Reuters reports. If true, Israel and much of eastern Europe would be within range.
"All of this is shrouded in mystery and not really transparent," says Bokhari of Stratfor. "We don't have a very good understanding of what Iran can actually do. There is a greater likelihood of Iranian missiles accurately targeting Arab states in the Gulf, but Israel is far away."
Bokhari suggests that Iran's power lies in its "ability to disrupt the global economy" and keeping the other side from unleashing a military campaign via "associated costs that are too high ... The issue right now is Iran's asymmetric capabilities, and future nuclear capabilities".
During war games in early January 2012, Iran tested medium-range surface-to-air missiles in the Gulf which were domestically designed and built. The launch coincided with increasing international pressure over the country's atomic programme.
While Iran has denied it is in the process of producing nuclear weapons, Israel is widely believed to have nuclear capability, despite its policy of "nuclear ambiguity". Delivery means include Jericho-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles and Jericho-1 short-range missiles. It is believed to have in the range of 200 nuclear warheads that it can launch with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
On November 2, 2011, Israel test-fired an ICBM thought to be an upgraded Jericho-3 from the Palmachim base, with a potential payload of 1,000kg and capable of reaching as far as South America or Oceania. The next day, Israel staged a mass civil defence drill simulating a missile attack in the centre of the country.
Despite the conventional military advantage to Israel, Roberts, the security specialist at RUSI, believes that "the Israelis don't have enough planes and enough of the right bombs to significantly set back whatever is going on in Iran ... I don't think it's a very sensible thing to do. There should be no [illusion] that Israel can unilaterally put an end to the Iranian nuclear programme".
"The one absolute kind of certainty is that, subsequent to a strike, Iran would be guaranteed to be pursuing the bomb vigorously and clandestinely."
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
The Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket is pictured on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang (Bobby Yip Reuters, REUTERS / April 24, 2012)
Benjamin Kang LimReuters
3:02 a.m. CDT, April 24, 2012
BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test, a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters, which will draw further international condemnation following a failed rocket launch if it goes ahead.
The isolated and impoverished state sacrificed the chance of closer ties with the United States when it launched the long-range rocket on April 13 and was censured by the U.N. Security Council, including the North's sole major ally, China.
Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at honing the North's ability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, a move that would dramatically increase its military and diplomatic heft.
Now the North appears to be about to carry out a third nuclear test after two in 2006 and 2009.
"Soon. Preparations are almost complete," the source said when asked whether North Korea was planning to conduct a nuclear test.
This is the first time a senior official has confirmed the planned test and the source has correctly predicted events in the past, telling Reuters about the 2006 test days before it happened.
The rocket launch and nuclear test come as Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to rule North Korea, seeks to cement his grip on power.
Kim took office in December and has lauded the country's military might, reaffirming his father's "military first" policies that have stunted economic development and appearing to dash slim hopes of an opening to the outside world.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, which have most to fear from any North Korean nuclear threat, are watching events anxiously and many observers say that Pyongyang may have the capacity to conduct a test using highly enriched uranium for the first time.
Defense experts say that by successfully enriching uranium, to make bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima nearly 70 years ago, the North would be able to significantly build up stocks of weapons-grade nuclear material.
It would also allow it more easily to manufacture a nuclear warhead to mount on a long-range missile.
The source did not specify whether the test would be a third test using plutonium, of which it has limited stocks, or whether Pyongyang would use uranium.
South Korean defense sources have been quoted in domestic media as saying a launch could come within two weeks and one North Korea analyst has suggested that it could come as early as the North's "Army Day" on Wednesday.
Other observers say that any date is pure speculation.
The rocket launch and the planned nuclear test have exposed the limits of China's hold over Pyongyang. Beijing is the North's sole major ally and props up the state with investment and fuel.
"China is like a chameleon toward North Korea," said Kim Young-soo, professor of political science at Sogang University in Seoul. "It says it objects to North Korea's provocative acts, but it does not participate in punishing the North."
Reports have suggested that a Chinese company may have supplied a rocket launcher shown off at a military parade to mark this month's centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the state's founder, something that may be in breach of UN sanctions.
China has denied breaching sanctions.
YOUNGEST KIM STILL IN CHARGE DESPITE ROCKET FIASCO
The source said there was debate in North Korea's top leadership over whether to go ahead with the launch in the face of U.S. warnings and the possibility of further U.N. sanctions, but that hawks in the Korean People's Army had won the debate.
The source dismissed speculation that the failed launch had dealt a blow to Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, who came to power after his father Kim Jong-il died following a 17-year rule that saw North Korea experience a famine in the 1990s.
"Kim Jong-un was named first secretary of the (ruling) Workers' Party and head of the National Defence Commission," the source said, adding that the titles further consolidated his grip on power.
North Korean media has recently upped its criticism of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who cut off aid to Pyongyang when he took power in 2008, calling him a "rat" and a "bastard" and threatening to turn the South Korean capital to ashes.
Pyongyang desperately wants recognition from the United States, the guarantor of the South's security. It claims sovereignty over the entire Korean peninsula, as does South Korea.
"North Korea may consider abandoning (the test) if the United States agrees to a peace treaty," the source said, reiterating a long-standing demand by Pyongyang for recognition by Washington and a treaty to end the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce.
(Writing by David Chance; Editing by Nick Macfie)
A fiery meteor created a thundering explosion and traced a rare daylight fireball seen for about 600 miles across Nevada and California on Sunday, before apparently breaking up harmlessly at high altitude, astronomers said.
NASA researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the midair explosion, centered over California's Central Valley east of the San Francisco Bay area, was the equivalent of the detonation of about 3.8 kilotons of TNT—about one quarter the energy released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
"The meteor was probably about the size of an SUV," said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. "This was a big one. An event of this size might happen about once a year, but most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area."
There were no reports Monday that any fragments of the object had reached the ground or caused any damage. No major telescope in the region tracked the early-morning fireball. NASA astronomers said the explosion might have been five to 10 miles high, which was high enough to let the sound spread widely.
Each day, countless meteors reach Earth's atmosphere. Most are smaller than a grain of sand, according to the American Meteor Society, and usually burn up before they hit Earth's surface.
Sunday's eye-catching event occurred at the height of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, which happens every April as Earth plows through the dust and debris trailing a comet called Thatcher. People have been observing its annual shower of shooting stars for more than 2,600 years. Astronomers usually expect about 20 meteors per hour during the Lyrid shower, with outbursts as high as 100 meteors per hour.
Generally, comet debris can hit Earth's atmosphere at speeds as fast as 110,000 miles per hour. The heat from the friction of its descent into the denser air can ignite the dust and debris in a display of astronomical fireworks. Skywatchers have reported dazzling fireballs, like Sunday's, during Lyrid showers in previous years.
In the far distant past, immense meteorites—meteors that slam into Earth—likely contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs. The largest meteorite found weighs nearly 60 tons. Called Hoba, it is an iron boulder thought to have landed about 80,000 years ago, in present-day Namibia.
On rare occasions, the falling bits of space debris do hit now-populated areas. There is no record of anyone ever having been killed by a meteorite, but in recent years, there have been verified accounts of a meteorite hitting a bedroom in Alabama, a dining room in Connecticut and a parked car in Peekskill, N.Y.
NASA Calls Meteor Eruption "Huge Event"
If you heard a large boom just before 8am Sunday, you weren't alone.
Dr. Bill Cooke with the Lead, NASA Meteroid Environments Office said the meteor eruption caused quite the commotion.
Cooke said the meteor's energy was a whopping 3.8 kilotons of TNT. That's about one fourth of the "little boy" bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima during WWII.
"This meteor was about the size of a minivan and had a mass somewhere around 70 metric tons. So if you can imagine a boulder about the size of a minivan with mass of 70 tons, you get a pretty good idea what the meteor was like."
NASA believes the meteor exploded in the atmosphere over California, somewhere between Sacramento and Fresno.
Cooke said the meteor was probably moving at about 33,000 miles per hour.
He said it probably came from the asteroid belt and exploded in the upper atmosphere and spread meteorites in eastern California, near the Nevada border.
I asked Cooke what was the loud boom everyone heard?
"When they get low in the atmosphere, the pressure in front of them builds up to the point where the meteor simply breaks apart and it does so violently it creates an explosion. The sound you heard was probably build up from that over pressure and the shock wave generated from that explosion."
Cooke said you would think they are dangerous, but in all of recorded history, only one person has ever been hit a meteorite
A Canadian scientist who specializes in meteor sound waves said Monday the infrasonic signal from Sunday’s event felt over a wide swath of Northern Nevada and California was “very strong” and lasted more than 18 minutes at a monitoring station 400 miles away.
Infrasound is low-frequency sound below the threshold of the human hearing range of 20 Hertz.
Elizabeth Silber of the Meteor Physics Group at the University of Western Ontario said the meteor – also called a bolide – exploded just before 8 a.m. on Sunday above the western slope of the Sierra, south and west of Reno and roughly halfway between Sacramento and Fresno.
Witnesses from Elko County in Nevada to Riverside County in Southern California reported seeing the bolide streaking across the sky. The sonic boom caused by the meteor exploding in Earth’s atmosphere was heard – and felt – from Reno and Lake Tahoe to Bakersfield, Calif.
The event was recorded by two infrasound monitoring stations of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System, one in Washington State and the other near the California-Mexico border. The IMS stations “listen” for illicit explosions, Sibler said.
The monitoring stations can pick up sound down to the natural frequency of the atmosphere, >0.01 Hertz. Other sources of infrasound include lightning, volcanoes, severe storms, mining activities, jet planes and chemical and nuclear explosions, Sibler said.
She said it’s likely the meteor disintegrated before reaching the ground, however, it was a powerful blast. She cautioned that she is continuing to analyze data from the blast, but has made some preliminary findings.
“Based on the signal characteristics, the source seems to be fairly energetic for a fireball, but not at all uncommon,” she said. “My preliminary analysis are indicative of energy yield of approximately 4 kilotons of TNT equivalent. That’s equivalent to a very small yield nuclear blast — except in nuclear explosions, half of the energy comes from thermal and ionizing radiation, while the other half is from the blast wave. In bolides, there is no radiation part.”
Silber said the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was about 15 kT and the Oklahoma City bomb was about 0.002 kT.
“To give you a little bit more perspective about energies surrounding fireballs, for example, there was a bolide over Indonesia in October 2009, which produced estimated energy of 50 kT,” she said. “It disintegrated in the atmosphere, producing infrasound on much of the globe.”
Friday, 13 April 2012
- NHK: NKorean rocket flew about 120 kilometers before splitting into four pieces, Japanese defense source says
- REU: SOUTH KOREAN ARMY SAYS ROCKET DEBRIS CRASHED BETWEEN 190KM TO 210KM OFF KUNSAN, A CITY ON WEST COAST OF SKOREA
- [As released by the New Zealand government]
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has joined the widespread international condemnation of North Korea’s satellite launch today using ballistic missile technology.
"Despite North Korea’s claim that the satellite launch is for peaceful purposes, this action violates UN Security Council Resolutions, aggravates tensions and undermines efforts to build peace and stability in the region," Mr McCully says.
- Kyodo: No damage reported in Okinawa after N. Korea rocket launch: gov't
- SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea defiantly fired off a long-range rocket Friday, officials said, in a move sure to spark strong international condemnations and escalate regional tensions.
The Unha-3 rocket took off from the Tongchang-ri launch site at 7:39 a.m., but appears to have separated into several pieces before crashing into the sea a few minutes after takeoff, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seook said.
- North Korea's long-range rocket fell into the sea about a minute after launch, Japan's Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka says
DEVELOPING - North Korea's attempt Friday to launch a rocket has failed, according to U.S. officials.
Data suggests the rocket broke up in mid-flight inside the Earth's atmosphere. Officials tell Fox News the rocket did not fall into any populated areas, suggesting it fell into the ocean.
When North Korea attempted to launch a rocket in 2009, the launch also failed during the third phase.
The launch window was scheduled during a week aimed at celebrating Sunday's centennial birth of Kim Ill Sung, the country's late founder.
The United States, Japan, Britain, Russia and others say the launch would be a provocation and would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs. Experts say the Unha-3 carrier is similar to the type of rocket that could be used to fire a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead to strike the U.S. or other targets.
North Korea denies that the launch is anything but a peaceful civilian bid to send a satellite into space. The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is designed to send back images and data that will be used for weather forecasts and agricultural surveys.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking for the Group of Eight nations after their foreign ministers met in Washington, said all the members of the bloc agreed to be prepared to take further action against North Korea in the Security Council if the launch goes ahead.
"Pyongyang has a clear choice: It can pursue peace and reap the benefits of closer ties with the international community, including the United States; or it can continue to face pressure and isolation," Clinton said.
At the United Nations in New York, G-8 member Russia echoed that the launch would violate Security Council resolutions. But North Korea's other main ally, China -- which is not part of the G-8 -- was more circumspect.
"We are very concerned about that issue," China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said, adding that Beijing wanted to "diffuse tension, not inflame" it.
Japan's parliament adopted a resolution Thursday condemning the scheduled rocket launch.
"A launch is a serious act of provocation that would affect peace and stability in the region that includes our country," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, reading the resolution adopted unanimously at the lower house. "We strongly urge North Korea to use self-restraint and not to carry out a launch."
South Korea's Defense Ministry said it was prepared to shoot down any rocket that strays into its territory.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, Greg Palkot, Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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