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    First missile silo unveiled

    The video on state television only showed a single silo. The broadcast did not say how many such silos existed.

    Pasdaran officers boasted of the construction of silos as a major development for the defense of Iran, saying that very few countries have missiles in silos. That is true. Missile silos are known to be used by only four countries: Russia, the United States, China and France.

    But the silos add nothing to Iran’s defense. Long-range missiles of the type Iran is boasting of are only militarily significant if they are topped by a nuclear warhead—or, theoretically, by a chemical or biological warhead.

    Iran says it is not building any nuclear weapons and the missiles will be topped only by conventional explosives. But a bomber aircraft—even a fighter plane—can carry far more bombs and explosive power than a single missile. And the aircraft can come back a second, third and fourth time, while the missile is finished after one flight.

    The silo was shown on state television in a dramatic news video in which the reporter was shown flying in a small plane, then getting in a van for a trip that, he said, “took several hours in a nowhere land.”

    At his destination, the reporter walked down some steps underground with two Pasdar colonels, one of whom opened a door to show the side of Shahab-3 missile.

    The reporter asked: “Where is here?”

    One colonel said, “It can be anywhere in Iran.”

    The other colonel said, “The enemy cannot guess we are here—but we are here.”

    One colonel said there are “numerous” such missile silos across the country. “All of our silos are ready to launch missiles anytime,” he said.

    The colonel said, “Only a few countries in the world possess the technology to construct underground silos. The technology required for that is no less complicated than building the missile itself.” That was considerable hyperbole. It might be more accurate to say that few countries see any need for building missile silos, even those with nuclear weapons.

    The colonels also made the obligatory claim that all the technology involved in the silos is indigenous. That is a routine claim. Last year, it was made for a new Iranian warship although photos taken on the deck showed the nameplate of a European manufacturer on one of the pieces of equipment.

    The colonels also claimed that no one could locate the Iranian silos by satellite, although the Russians have mapped American silos by satellite and the Americans have mapped the Russian silos.

    The largest use of ballistic missiles topped with conventional explosives was in World War II when the Germans fired at least 3,172 V-2 missiles. The largest number of people killed in a missile strike was 160. The total death toll was 7,250 or a little more than two people per missile.

    In the 1991 war in which Iraqi troops were expelled from Kuwait, the Iraqis fired more than three dozen missiles at Israel, succeeding in killing one person.

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