Friday, March 31, 2006

Iran fires missile that can evade radar: TV

Parinoosh Arami, The Washington Post:
Iran's armed forces on Friday successfully test fired a domestically produced missile which can evade radar, state television reported, a development analysts said could be worrying for Western forces in the Gulf.

Western nations have been watching developments in Iran's missile capabilities with concern amid a standoff over the Iranian nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at building atomic bombs. Iran says the program is civilian.

"The missile command of the air force of the Revolutionary Guards has successfully tested a new generation of missiles," Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards air force, told state television.

"This missile can evade radar and it can evade anti-missile missiles," he said.

"This technology is completely new, without copying any other missile systems that may exist in other countries," he said, adding that the missile could carry multiple warheads. READ MORE

Television had said the type of missile tested was called Fajr-3 but Salami did not name the new weapon or give the missile's range, saying it depended on the warhead weight. He said it was a defensive weapon.

The U.S.-based military affairs Web site describes the Fajr-3 as a 240 mm artillery rocket with a 25-mile range, one of a group of light rockets Iran has developed mainly for tactical use on the battlefield.

However, it also says Iran has been working on another missile, called the Kosar, that would be undetectable by radar and designed to sink ships in the Gulf.


Accompanying the report of the test, state television showed footage of a single missile being launched from land. The television report also described it as a "long-range missile."

Iranian officials could not be reached for more details.

Lee Willett, head of the military capabilities program at London's Royal United Services Institute, a defense think-tank, said the missile could be a worry for Western navies in the Gulf, wary of threats that could cut off shipping lanes.

"It is potentially a significant issue for coalition forces in the Gulf because there is a very important focus amongst the coalition navies on maritime security operations both at and from the sea, with a particular interest in what is happening from Iran," Willett said.

The test was part of a week of Iranian naval manoeuvres that started on Friday and were due to take place in the Gulf and Sea of Oman. Ground and air forces are also taking part in the wargames to show Iran's "defensive capabilities," the official IRNA news agency reported.

Diplomats in Europe said this month that Iran was stepping up development of missiles capable of carrying atomic warheads. An Iranian official denied the charge.

The diplomats, citing an intelligence report, said the program included plans to arm Iran's Shahab-3 missiles, which experts believe has a maximum range of around 2,000 km (1,240 miles), with nuclear warheads.

Experts say North Korea has been key to Iran's missile development. A German diplomat in February said Iran has purchased 18 disassembled BM-25 missiles with a range of about 2,500 km from North Korea.

The Iranian exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran, has also said Iran was working on developing so-called Ghadr missiles, with a range of up to 3,000 km (1,864 miles).

(Additional reporting by Peter Graff in London)