Planet Labs Satellite Imagery Shows Iran Boosting Missile Production

9th Jul 2024
Planet Labs Satellite Imagery Shows Iran Boosting Missile Production

In March and April 2024, the commercial satellite company Planet Labs took images that show a significant expansion at two key Iranian ballistic missile facilities: the Modarres military base and the Khojir missile production complex. The photos reveal over 30 new buildings at these sites, both located near Tehran.

As Reuters reported, large dirt berms encircle many of these buildings. According to Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, such earthworks are typically connected to missile production. They prevent an explosion in one building from igniting highly combustible materials in nearby structures.

Iran Increasing Missile Production

suspected missile engine test
A satellite photo shows a suspected missile engine test stands at the Khojir complex near Tehran, Iran. Credit: Planet Labs PBC/Handout via REUTERS

Additionally, two American researchers said that significant expansions at two key Iranian ballistic missile facilities aim to increase missile production. Three senior Iranian officials have confirmed this conclusion. Overall, Iran already has the largest missile arsenal in the Middle East, with over 3,000 missiles, including ones that can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

Iran’s Agreement With Russia

The expansion of these sites comes after an October 2022 agreement in which Iran committed to supplying missiles to Russia for its war against Ukraine. Additionally, Tehran provides missiles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, both of which are part of the Iran-backed Axis of Resistance against Israel, as the U.S. officials stated.

Researcher’s Findings About Satellite Imagery

suspected expansion of missile facilities
A satellite photo shows the suspected expansion of missile facilities at Shahid Modarres Garrison near Tehran, Iran. Planet Labs PBC/Handout via REUTERS

Lewis, along with Decker Eveleth, an associate research analyst at CNA, analyzed the Planet Labs imagery as part of a Middlebury project that tracks Iranian missile infrastructure. As he concluded, based on satellite images of the sites, the expansions at Khojir started in August last year and at Modarres in October. 

“We know that Russia is seeking low-cost missile capabilities and has turned to Iran and North Korea,” added Lewis.

What Does The U.S. Say?

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence didn’t comment on the researchers’ analysis of the satellite imagery. However, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council stated that the United States has implemented various measures, including sanctions, to limit Iranian missile and drone production and exports.

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