Monday, November 28, 2011

Bidqaneh Update

ISIS has published satellite imagery of the facilities that were rocked by explosions earlier this month. It answers our most primary question which is - where did the explosion take place? The Digital Globe imagery shows that the explosion took place in a compound I labeled as a 'possible industrial facility' just west of the main Bidqaneh-adjacent facility in my original post.

The facility has been under various levels of renovation since 2004 when the oldest imagery dates from. Between 2004 and 2007 the compound remains roughly the same with only minor changes. It should be noted that the suspected static missile test site 2 km south of this compound was first built somewhere between 2004 and 2007, and only completed. In 2009 construction escalates; the fact that the landfill is in use confirms the construction happening during that time. In 2010 the first blue-roofed buildings emerge; speaking broadly, the use of blue roofing material has become more common recently and is often associated with industrial military buildings (for other examples of this, look to the IRGC's HSPB factory in Bandar Abbas, or the suspected IRGC engineering buildings adjacent to the 77th mechanized infantry division's headquarters in Mashhad). A number of new trees have been planted near the northern buildings and they have a more lived-in appearance. By June 2011 several new buildings have been erected near the entry-point as well as additions onto the pre-existing garages and workshops. Paved areas have also been expanded around these workshops. Not much changes by September of 2011 except for the apparent completion of construction on the same additions. There are also what appear to be, possibly, large tanks for holding liquids.

[EDIT: The picture below isn't the proper size, fixing sometime soon]

Construction from 2004-2011
The size and configuration of the garages point to some sort of industrial application for these buildings; the fact that recent construction was accompanied by a road leading to a rocket engine test site indicates that it could be related to the fueling of rockets. This would present a plausible explanation for how the explosion took place.

Looking at the imagery provided by ISIS (see hyperlink above), the blast appears to have originated in the western-half of the compound, likely from the two bottom-most workshops on the western side. Both of these buildings have been completely annihilated as has the blue-roofed building north of these garages. Several of the administrative buildings bordered with trees have also been destroyed, but it's unlikely the explosion originated from either of these buildings and it's more likely they were damaged and later demolished in the cleanup. The four other workshops all suffered significant damage though are still standing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The US military finally gets its act together...

Multi-service office to advance air-sea battle concept
11/9/2011 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Department of Defense announced the creation of a new office to integrate air and naval combat capabilities in support of emerging national security requirements Nov. 9.

In the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates directed the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to develop a comprehensive concept to counter emerging anti-access/area denial challenges. The services collaborated to develop the Air-Sea Battle concept. On Aug. 12, Navy Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford and Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove established the Air-Sea Battle Office, creating a framework to implement the ASB concept.

The ASB concept will guide the services as they work together to maintain a continued U.S. advantage against the global proliferation of advanced military technologies and A2/AD capabilities. Air-Sea Battle will leverage military and technological capabilities that reflect unprecedented Navy, Marine and Air Force collaboration, cooperation, integration and resource investments.
Continued at Source

It seems that the US military has finally gotten around to addressing the threat posted by asymmetric warfare that is designed to exploit the weaknesses of the USN and USAF avoiding their strengths. Quite a few authors have written about this subject in recent years, most notably including 'Iran’s Asymmetric Naval Warfare', by Fariborz Haghshenass, 'Iran's Naval Forces', published by the Office of Naval Intelligence, 'Obsolete Weapons, Unconventional Tactics, and Martyrdom Zeal', by Jahangar Arasli, and 'Iran's Two Navies', by Joshua Himes. For years observers have derided the USN for failing to develop a responsive strategy and failing to see what even amateur analysts could tell about Iran's naval strategy.

While 'Air-Sea Battle' is not purely a strategy geared toward defeating Iran - it is afterall, an operational concept for use against any area-denial attacks, and the write-up even goes so far as to say it's not aimed at any one country, it's easy to see how the developers at least were aware of the threat posed by Iran (and likely China) when drafting the report. The following excerpt from the attached pdf almost reads straight out of Iran's playbook - designs to exclude the US from the Persian Gulf, ASCMs, ballistic-missiles, IADS, submarines, mines, small-boat swarms, 4th GW fighters (i.e. Hezbollah), UAVs and cyber-warfare. 
"Over the past two decades, the development and proliferation of advanced weapons, targeting perceived U.S. vulnerabilities, have the potential to create an A2/AD environment that increasingly challenges U.S. military access to and freedom of action within potentially contested areas. These advanced systems encompass diverse capabilities that include ballistic and cruise missiles; sophisticated integrated air defense systems; anti-ship weapons ranging from high-tech missiles and submarines to low-tech mines and swarming boats; guided rockets, missiles, and artillery, an increasing number of 4th generation fighters; low-observable manned and unmanned combat aircraft; as well as space and cyber warfare
capabilities specifically designed to disrupt U.S. communications and intelligence systems. In combination, these advanced technologies have the potential to diminish the advantages the U.S. military enjoys in the air, maritime, land, space, and cyberspace domains today. If these advances continue and are not addressed effectively, U.S. forces could soon face increasing risk in deploying to and operating within previously secure forward areas--and over time in rear areas and sanctuaries--ultimately affecting our ability to respond effectively to coercion and crises that directly threaten the strategic interests of the U.S.,
our allies, and partners."
The strategy developed to defeat area-denial attacks is all very net-centric and reads like something RAND produced in the late-90s with buzzwords like 'resilience' and 'agility'. For a primer on the impact of military networking, I reccomend Australia Airpower's 'Understanding Network Centric Warfare', or if one wants to understand network-theory on a grander scale, Arquilla and Ronfeldt's ground-breaking treatise: 'Networks and Netwars'.

"The Air-Sea Battle Concept centers on networked, integrated, attack-in-depth to disrupt, destroy and defeat (NIA-D3) A2/AD threats. This approach exploits and improves upon the advantage U.S. forces have across the air, maritime, land, space and cyberspace domains, and is essential to defeat increasingly capable intelligence gathering systems and sophisticated weapons systems used by adversaries employing A2/AD systems. Offensive and defensive tasks in Air-Sea Battle are tightly coordinated in real time by networks able to command and control air and naval forces in a contested environment. The air and naval forces are organized by mission and networked to conduct integrated operations across all domains. 
The concept organizes these integrated tasks into three lines of effort, wherein air and naval forces attack-in-depth to disrupt the adversary's intelligence collection and command and control used to employ A2/AD weapons systems; destroy or neutralize A2/AD weapons systems within effective range of U.S. forces; and defeat an adversary's employed weapons to preserve essential U.S. Joint forces and their enablers. Through NIA-D3, air and naval forces achieve integrated effects across multiple domains, using multiple paths to increase the resilience, agility, speed and effectiveness of the force."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Explosion at Bidganeh!

This, from the BBC:

Iran explosion at Revolutionary Guards military base
Seventeen soldiers have been killed in an explosion at a military base near Iran's capital Tehran, officials say.

The blast occurred when weapons were being moved inside a Revolutionary Guards depot, a spokesman for the elite unit told state TV.

Windows in nearby buildings were shattered and the blast was heard in central Tehran, 40 km (25 miles) away.

Two hours after the explosion a fire still raged and there were traffic jams on nearby roads, a local reporter said.
Story continued here

Haaretz reports that according to a spokesman for the opposition-group MEK, the base in question was the 'Modarres' garrison for the IRGC's missile units, including the Raad-5 brigade which is reported to operate the Shahab-3. Is there any truth to this statement? Just what do we know about the Modarres Garrison?

From the news reports we know it's west of Tehran, and adjacent to the towns of Bidganeh and Shahriar; thankfully, it's not to difficult to find. The 'facility' is actually a handful of facilities clustered around one another in amongst a patch of hills. The footprint of all the facilities covers an area roughly 24 km long and 6 km tall. This can in turn be bisected, for the sake of description, into a northern and southern half and which is bisected by a road running north-east to south-west. The northern half tends to hold facilities related to production and testing of missiles while the southern half tends to contain garrison forces.

Emergency services who responded to the scene of the explosion, including the Red Crescent, were reportedly not allowed inside the base to provide medical services due to the highly secretive nature of the base. This is supported by satellite imagery which depicts multiple levels of security perimeters consisting of earthen ramparts, fences, guard-posts and entry-control-points (ECPs). A good indicator of a facilities value and importance could very well be the degree to which it is protected with barriers.

Area Overview

Industrial Facility


Missile Test Facility 1

Missile Test Facility 2

Garrison 1

Garrison 2

Miscellaneous Facilities