Iran says it tested stealth missile


Published: Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 31, 2006 at 8:28 p.m.
Iran's military said Friday it successfully test-fired a missile not detectable by radar that can use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously, a development that raised concerns in the United States and Israel.
The Fajr-3, which means "victory" in Farsi, can reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East, Iranian state media indicated. The announcement of the test-firing is likely to stoke regional tensions and feed suspicion about Tehran's military intentions and nuclear ambitions.
"I think it demonstrates that Iran has a very active and aggressive military program under way," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington. "I think Iran's military posture, military development effort, is of concern to the international community."
Gen. Hossein Salami, the air force chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, did not specify the missile's range, saying how far it can travel depends on the weight of its warheads.
But state-run television described the weapon as "ballistic" - suggesting it is of comparable range to Iran's existing ballistic rocket, which can travel about 1,200 miles and reach arch-foe Israel and U.S. bases in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region.
"Today, a remarkable goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran's defense forces was realized with the successful test-firing of a new missile with greater technical and tactical capabilities than those previously produced," Salami said on television, which showed a brief clip of the missile's launch.
"It can avoid anti-missile missiles and strike the target," the general said.
He said the missile would carry a multiple warhead, and each warhead would be capable of hitting its target precisely.
"This news causes much concern, and that concern is shared by many countries in the international community, about Iran's aggressive nuclear weapons program and her parallel efforts to develop delivery systems, both in the field of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
"The combination of extremist jihadist ideology, together with nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is a combination that no one in the international community can be complacent about," Regev said.
Yossi Alpher, an Israeli consultant on the Mideast peace process, said the news "escalates the arms race between Iran and all those who are concerned about Iran's aggressive intentions and nuclear potential."
"Clearly it's escalation, and also an attempt by Iran to flex its muscles as it goes into a new phase of the diplomatic struggle with the U.N. Security Council."
Andy Oppenheimer, a weapons expert at Jane's Information Group, said the missile test could be an indication that Iran has MIRV capability. MIRV refers to multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, which are intercontinental ballistic missiles with several warheads, each of which could be directed to a different target.
"From the description, it could be a MIRV. If you are saying that from a single missile, separate warheads can be independently targeted then yes, this is significant," he said.
"But we don't know how accurate the Iranians are able to make their missiles yet, and this is a crucial point," Oppenheimer said.
"If the missile is adaptable for nuclear warheads, then they are well on the way," he added. "But they have not made a nuclear warhead yet. The current estimates are it could take five years."
Iran's existing ballistic rocket is called Shahab-3, which means "shooting star." It is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Israel and the United States have jointly developed the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system in response to the Shahab-3.
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.
Last year, former Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Tehran had successfully tested a solid fuel motor for the Shahab-3, a technological breakthrough in Iran's military.
Salami, the Revolutionary Guards general, said Friday the Iranian-made missile was test-fired as large military maneuvers began in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. The maneuvers are to last a week and will involve 17,000 Revolutionary Guards as well as boats, fighter jets and helicopter gunships.
The tests come amid growing concern over Iran's nuclear program. The United States and its allies believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies that, saying its nuclear program is for generating electricity.
The U.N. Security Council is demanding that Iran halt its uranium enrichment activities. But an Iranian envoy said its activities are "not reversible."

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