Update | 10:24 pm 25 February 2013 Our reader friend sends along a fourth, high resolution video in which the narrator explains that the missiles on stationary launchers were to fired from inside the building, through openings in the roof. No, I don’t understand why.
The other day, a reader got in touch with some interesting news.
This was no normal reader, mind you, but the same person who trekked to Halabiye after the Israel strike on what turned out to be a covert nuclear reactor under construction near Dair Alzour (or Al Kibar, if you prefer. Or Deir ez-Zor Or Dayr al-Zawr. Or Der Ezzor. Or Deir Azzor. Or D’yer Mak’er.)
At the time, this person was able to confirm that the earthen berm constructed by Syria did, in fact, block the sightline up into the valley in which the reactor was nestled (Tourist Trip To Halabiye, 28 October 2009). The reader did not manage to get closer, owing to the efforts of Syrian security posted at the bridge. The story remains one of my favorites, although I must strongly encourage readers never to do anything like this again.
Anyway, same-said reader emailed me a trio of videos demonstrating that Syrian opposition forces have overrun the former reactor site. I started looking at the videos yesterday, got hung up on identifying the missile in the building, and then decided to take the kids to the pool. It was an afternoon well spent sipping wine in a hot tub, but the result is that by this morning, Reuters’s Khaled Yacoub Oweis had me scooped. Living well is still the best revenge.
1. السيطرة بشكل كامل على مقر الكبر النووي من قبل لواء جعفر الطيار وجبهة النصرة 22 2 2013 (“Full control over the al-Kibar nuclear site by Jaʿfar al-Tayyār brigade and al-Nusra front.”)
[From Google Translate, I make the title something like: 22 February 2013 Fully in control of the Al Kibar nuclear site by Jafar [his honorific works out to be "the pilot" which can't be right.] and the FSA.]
This is the money video that establishes the location — I’ve stitched together screen captures for comparison with an overhead image. The two structures, including the blue building constructed on top of the destroyed reactor, are dead ringers, as are some of the more subtle terrain features. I’d call this a high confidence identification.
2. 2013 صوير ثاني لصاروخ السكود الذي تم السيطرة عليه من قبل الجيش الحر في مقر الكبر النووي المحرر 23 2 (“Second picture of the Scud missile, over which full control was established by the Free Army in the liberated al-Kibar nuclear site.”)
[Again from Google Translate, something like Second Scud Missile under control of the Free Syrian Army at the Al Kibar nuclear site.]
This is the interesting video. Scud missile? That’s not good enough! As I have noted before, the late (great) Ze’ev Schiff reported that North Korea sold Libya and Syria something called (we call? they call?) the Scud D. After Libya coughed up its Scud C missiles, the range appeared to confirm Schiff’s reporting. ”When Libya gave up its MTCR-class missile programs in 2003,” the US side told the Russians in leaked, not-safe-for-work accounts of the Joint Threat Assessment, “it showed the U.S. a missile it called the ‘Scud-C.’ However, it had a longer range than the missile we refer generally refer to as the Scud-C.” Sounds like a Scud D to me!
So which one are we looking at? A plain ol’ Scud? Or something more interesting? For comparison, here are Iranian Shahab 1 and Shahab-2 missiles which correspond to the Scud and Scud C. The problem is that I just don’t know enough about missile details to try and ponder whether we’re looking at a run-of-the-mill Scud or something really interesting.
3. 2013 قاعدة اطلاق صواريخ سكود في مقر الكبر النووي المحرر بالكامل 22 2 (“Complete launch base of the Scud missiles in the liberated al-Kibar nuclear site.”)
More of the same, but included for completeness or at least the aspiration towards.
Here is the full text of the Scud-D story. ’Twas lifted from a bulletin board, so one may wish to check for accuracy.
By Ze’ev Schiff, Ha’aretz Military Editor
North Korea has supplied a new, longer-range Scud ballistic missile to Syria and is in negotiations to sell the weapon to Egypt as well.
The Scud D, whose range is estimated to be 700 kilometers was unknown until recently. The original missile, which was made by the Soviet Union, is known as the Scud B, and most Arab countries with Scuds have Scud B missiles in their arsenals. Its range is approximately 300 kilometers.
North Korea developed a newer version, the Scud C, with a range of 500 kilometers. Syria acquired that version and has begun assembling them in a local plant set up by the North Koreans. It is also possible that Syria has begun producing Scud parts. Western sources estimate that Egypt has also become involved in producing Scud C missiles.
The Scud D is believed to have been sold to Syria and Libya. While its range is estimated at 700 kilometers, Syria only needs a 500-kilometer range to cover most of Israel, although it seems that Damascus’ intention is to be
able to deploy the new missile deeper in its territory while keeping Israel within range.
It is not known whether the payload of the new missile is any different from its predecessors or if its guidance system is any more accurate.
What is certain is that Syria has taken a great leap forward in terms of its missile arsenal. Before, Damascus assembled missiles from parts purchased from other countries – none of the missile parts were produced in
Syria. Now Syria has acquired the ability to make some missile parts on its own, though it still must buy some parts from other countries. In its efforts, Syria is closely cooperating with Iran, which is providing Damascus with
Syria also possesses chemical warheads for its missiles. It is estimated that Damascus has more than 300 missiles and 26 launchers, in addition to dummy launchers.
Libya is also showing renewed interest in acquiring and developing missiles. After sanctions for its role in the downing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 were lifted, Tripoli renewed its missile-acquisition efforts. The Libyans are also showing interest at North Korean missiles with a 1300-kilometer range, which served as the prototype for the Iranian-made Shehab-3.