A top Iranian military official said Tuesday the country can now defend itself against any invasion originating from outside the region – a clear reference to the United States – as it tested a second new radar-avoiding missile.
The new surface-to-sea missile is equipped with remote-control and searching systems, state-run television reported. It said the new missile, called Kowsar after the name of a river in paradise, was a medium-range weapon that Iran had the capability to mass-produce.
It also asserted that the Kowsar’s guidance system could not be scrambled, and that it had been designed to sink ships.
Shortly after the test, the chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, warned that Iran was now able to “confront any extra-regional invasion,” referring to the United States without mentioning it by name.
“The missile command of the Guards’ naval force … via positioning various types of surface-to-sea missiles, is able, while defending the coastlines and islands, to confront any extra-territorial invasion,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Safavi as saying.
Safavi also called for foreign forces to leave the region. The U.S. 5th fleet is based in Bahrain, from where it patrols the Gulf.
“Iran wants durable peace in the Persian Gulf and it can’t be achieved without foreign forces and those which invaded Iraq leaving (the region),” IRNA quoted Safavi as saying.
The Tuesday test was the latest in a series during war games in the Persian Gulf that the military says are aimed at preparing the country’s defenses against the United States.
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Hours after the test, the Saudi foreign minister told reporters in Riyadh that his government was not bothered by Iran’s military exercises.
“It’s not the first time they have maneuvers and we don’t believe that they are a threat in and of themselves,” Prince Saud said when asked for Saudi Arabia’s view.
Iran political analyst Saeed Leilaz said the tests would strengthen Iran’s position when it goes into the forthcoming talks with the United States on Iraq. Iran wants to enter the negotiations “with a powerful hand,” he said.
Leilaz, who writes opinion pieces for the reformist newspaper “Sharg,” said the tests served as a warning to the United States, which was one of the driving forces behind the U.N. Security Council’s telling Iran last week that it had 30 days to suspend its enrichment of uranium.
“Coming after the U.N. Security Council statement, the tests are telling the United States that Iran can block the shipment of oil from the Persian Gulf and cause harm to U.S. warships, if America harms Iran,” Leilaz said.
On Friday, the country tested the Fajr-3, a missile that it said can avoid radars and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads. Since the war games began, the country also has tested what it calls two new torpedoes.
The second torpedo, unveiled Monday, was tested in the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow entrance to the Gulf that is a vital corridor for oil supplies. That seemed designed to be a clear warning to the United States that Iran believes it has the capability to disable oil tankers moving through the Gulf, if it should so choose.
The Guards, the elite branch of Iran’s military, have been holding their maneuvers – code-named the “Great Prophet” – since Friday, touting what they call domestically built technological advances in their armed forces.
But military analysts in Moscow said the high-speed torpedoes tested by Iran this week were likely Russian-built weapons and may have been acquired from China or the ex-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Judging by the fuzzy television pictures showing the tests, the missiles appeared very similar to the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, the world’s fastest known underwater missile, they said.
Ruslan Pukhov, an expert with the Center for Strategic Analysis and Technologies, said that he believed the Shkval technology was too sophisticated for the Iranians to produce themselves.
Pukhov noted that the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan once had a Soviet top-secret torpedo and naval testing center located on the remote mountain lake, Issyk Kul. He said in the mid-1990s, in the turmoil that followed the Soviet breakup, Kyrgyz authorities had sold Shkvals to the Chinese, a major importer of Iranian oil.
Others experts said it would be easy to gather up sunken torpedoes used in tests in Issyk Kul and develop the technology with the help of Russian scientists who had gone to Iran in search of well-paying jobs.
“(Iran’s) technology is developing very fast. They could get enough brains and the funds to build them on their own,” said Vadim Kozyulin, an arms expert with the PIR Center, an independent Moscow arms proliferation think tank.
Others have questioned just how radar-evading the missiles are. Iran’s radars are not as advanced as those of Israel, for example – meaning that perhaps the new weapons can avoid the radar that Iran has access to, but not more advanced types.
The United States said Monday – after the second torpedo test – that while Iran may have made “some strides” in its military, it is likely to be exaggerating its capabilities.
Nevertheless, the country has made clear it aims to send a message of strength to the United States amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
On Tuesday, state-run television also said the elite Revolutionary Guards had tested what it called a “super modern flying boat” capable of evading radar. TV showed a brief clip of the boat’s launch.
“Due to its advanced design, no radar at sea or in the air can detect it. It can lift out of the water,” the television said. It said the boat was “all Iranian-made and can launch missiles with precise targeting while moving.”
The television showed the boat, looking like an aircraft, taking off from the sea and flying low over the surface of the water. It said the craft can fly with a speed of 100 nautical miles per hour.
Iran said the torpedo tests were conducted on Sunday and Monday. The torpedo – called a “Hoot,” or “whale” – is able to move at up to 223 mph, too fast for any enemy ship to elude.
Iran has routinely held war games over the past two decades to improve its combat readiness and test locally made equipment such as missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.