A spokesman for the Russian state-owned arms export company Rosvooruzhenie said yesterday that the company had no information about the transfer of SS-4 ballistic missile technology to Iran as recently charged by the U.S. and Israel. But other Russian sources suggested that it still might have happened. Konstantin Makiyenko, an expert with the Center for Russian Political Studies, said the transfer could have been an illegal “black export” deal by an individual or company in the financially hard pressed defense industry. He also suggested that Belarus or Ukraine might have been involved, while other experts pointed to Kazakstan or Uzbekistan as a possible source of the leak. (Interfax, February 13)
The SS-4 would seem a strange choice for a technology transfer because it is an antique. A large, liquid-fueled, medium-range ballistic missile, it entered Soviet service in the late 1950’s. Although some 2,300 were built, by the time the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty went into effect only 170 remained in the inventory. The missile had been designed by the Yangel design bureau and was out of production in 1987. A repair facility for the remaining missiles was located in Bataysk, just south of Rostov. Since it was designed to carry a 1 megaton nuclear warhead, the SS-4 did not need to be very accurate, so its guidance technology would not be of much interest to Iran. Western intelligence estimated that the SS-4 would be doing good to land within 1.5 kilometers of its target.
The U.S. and some of its allies have tried to sponsor programs that would employ weapons experts from throughout the former Soviet Union, but the fear remains that not enough is being done and that some of these under-employed and unpaid scientists could sell their knowledge to the wrong bidders. This incident might show that fear to be justified.
Chernomyrdin Vows Progress on Military Reform.