The Iranian Missile Threat to Air Bases

A Distant Second to China's Conventional Deterrent

Published in: Air and Space Power Journal, v. 29, no. 4, July-Aug. 2015, p. 27-50

Posted on RAND.org on July 31, 2015

by Jacob L. Heim

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This article presents an operational analysis of the ability of Iranian and Chinese conventionally armed theater ballistic missiles (TBM) to threaten air bases that might be used by the United States in the event of war. The analysis demonstrates that the political and military geography of Southwest Asia (SWA) lessens the potential impact of the already weaker Iranian TBM capabilities. An examination of each country's TBM capabilities and doctrine reveals that many of Iran's claims are bluff. Unlike the US situation in East Asia, distinct basing strategies are available to the United States in SWA to address the Iranian TBM threat. These differences have significant consequences for American military power, force posture, and force structure.

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