Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Saudi Arabia's Ballistic Missile Force

A revised version of this article will be published in Jane's Intelligence Review during the summer of 2013.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is very interesting. I had no idea Saudi Arabia had such a force. Do you know how long it takes to clear one of the launch pads after firing? That is, how long before a second launcher could take up position and fire.

Saudi Arabia may have signed the NPT but they are exceedingly clever about such strategic issues. Why take the risk of developing their own nuclear weapons when they can put the heavy lifting off on someone else? I would not be shocked to hear that the Saudis bankrolled the Pakistani program in exchange for either actual nukes or a promise of future delivery in a crisis. It's worth noting that they took an interest in ballistic missiles right around the time that Pakistan developed a workable warhead for them.

They may have promised not to put nuclear weapons on these missiles, and they may even intend to keep that promise, but intentions can change in an afternoon. If they have actual warheads without any of the development infrastructure, this would impossible to confirm without the help of an insider. If they have a delivery agreement with Pakistan, this is likewise impossible to confirm or deny. It's a very intriguing situation that I have never heard discussed in the Western media.

Sean O'Connor said...

Because the missiles are erected and then fueled, I'd imagine it takes no more than three hours to reuse a launch pad. That figures around an hour to let the toxic propellant cloud clear off and remove the now empty launcher, and two hours to set up and fuel a new missile.

I still find it intriguing that they specifically promised not to fit these weapons with nuclear or chemical warheads, perhaps cleverly omitting the possibility of a biological payload.

RAJ47 said...

I wonder if the other country would allow a second launch from the same pad. As I understand pads only increase the accuracy since centre pt's coordinates are accurately measured. So if nuke tips are used it will be an air burst or a ground burst (since accuracy of DF-3 is doubtful); not needing a second launch. If a conventional warhead is used then accuracy hardly matters.

Allen Thomson said...

Re evidence of ventilation in the UGF:

Maybe at 21.06969 N, 42.85243 E ?

Sean O'Connor said...

Allen:

I noticed that, but it seems out of position for any sort of ventilation system. It's quite far back along the ridgeline from the openings and likely storage areas. It's also rather small, and the only one visible that I've found so far. A facility that size, if it extends that deep into the ridgeline, would need a lot more ventilation. The lack of ventilation isn't that big of a deal, it just suggests that this is a storage facility and not some sort of occupied UGF.

Allen Thomson said...

> A facility that size, if it extends that deep into the ridgeline, would need a lot more ventilation.

The Google Earth measuring tool says the object is about 3 meters on a side -- kind of small for an inhabited building but perhaps plausible as a shelter for a duct inlet or outlet.

A quick search says that facility ventilation requirements are about 10 liters/second per person. So a duct with one square meter cross section and an average flow velocity of 1 m/s could sustain a few dozen people. Heat dissipation from equipment would, of course, increase the flow requirement unless some sort of heat exchanger system were used.

I agree that we're not talking about an underground metropolis, but something requiring modest staffing doesn't seem out of the question.

BTW and FWIW, GE indicates that the object's elevation is about 250 meters greater than the adits'. I'd guess from its appearance that the rock is granite, so, if what's behind the adits goes very far into the hill, it's pretty hard.

Brian Cameron said...

There are about 15 entrances going into the mountain. If it is a vent...it could be used for any reason. Mining for Allah knows what. Don't read to far into it...but I still think we should throw a bunker buster up their ass.

Anonymous said...

Very good post.

I note about 15Km to the North is a AN/FPS-117 Surveillance Radar, (protected by its characteristic white igloo). They're a pretty common sight here in Saudi and part of the RSADF's 'Peace Shield' network.

From what I have learnt, the Rawdah complex was heavily involved in the training of Saudi forces in the use of the DF-3A. However it may now be dormant and used for munitions and POL storage.

Peter said...

Another possible launch pad at 21 03' 07.04" N 42 50' 09.40 E

Jonathan said...

The CSS-2's were replaced by CSS-5's during the Bush-Cheney years, as I explain in my book "Patriot Lost" www.patriotlost.us. But you're definitely on the right track; the Saudi rocket forces are the most overlooked ballistic missile force in the Middle East today. In fact, I have every confidence that the transition to the CSS-5 marked Saudi Arabia's transformation into the world's first Arab nuclear power.

Scotty09 said...

A very good post indeed, but I don't recommend you promote the GlobalSecurity links since they are quite misleading. For example, they claim the DF-3 is based on the Soviet R-12 which is very dubious considering the two missiles much different dimensions, fuel types and thrust levels. Their claim to what its thrust levels are also incorrect (they state only 64 tons, which its more like twice that!). GlobalSecurity, while widely quoted, is not a reliable source of anything in my experience.

Anonymous said...

I think you are greatly overestimating the time to clear a launch pad after use. Typically winds are in the 15-20 mph gustin g range, with constant velocities usually in the 10 mph range. As such, the pads could be safe for personnel in 10-15 minutes no problem - especially in a culture that does not value 'worker bees'.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info.. But The saudi-pakistan relationships is far than the one with china. Without saudi money and free oil Pakistan would have never built a nuclear bomb. A lot of sources latley are taking about the saudis are purchasing the css-5 and the css-6 from china. A lot of other sources are talking about the missiles they might got from pakistan like Ghuari 2. What do you think? could it be true?

Anonymous said...

There are several cultural/religious reasons why Suadis would value the lives of Iraqi Civilians over the lives of Iranian Civilians. Namely Iraq is predominately Arab (with in 1991 a sunni political majority)Where as Iran in ethnically Persian with a Shiite majority. And while Iraq was at the time a dictatorship Iran is a nominally a republican democracy, following that logic civilians in Iran are responsible for the actions of their government and legitimate military targets, where as Iraqis are not by some logic.