Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi indicated Saturday that two new missiles with sophisticated capabilities will go into production at recently constructed facilities. He touted the missiles' merits at a test-firing ceremony, just days after the successful launch of a rocket carrying mice, a turtle and worms into space.
Iranian state TV showed the missiles being test-fired Saturday and noted that the event was just another achievement of the Islamic Republic, and a fitting tribute to mark the 31st anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. The event follows the launch, three days ago, of a rocket carrying live animals into space.
Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was also shown inaugurating missile production plants that will produce the new Qaem ground-to-air missile and the new Toofan-5 surface-to-surface missile. The Toofan-5, it noted, is designed to penetrate tanks and armored personnel carriers and the Qaem is designed to hit helicopters flying at low to medium altitude.
Vahidi was effusive in his praise of the new missiles, claiming that they are sophisticated and the "best of their kind in the world". He says that the Tufan 5 missile is one of the world's most sophisticated missiles, carrying two warheads that are capable of penetrating the strongest armor and can destroy tanks and other armored vehicles. He emphasized that the Qaem surface-to-air missile is also capable of destroying targets in the air that travel at low speed and low altitude, especially attack helicopters. He added that it is launched using laser rays and can be used in electronic warfare since it can scramble signals sent out by enemy aircraft.
The announcement of Iran's military and technological exploits comes at a time of increasing tension between Tehran and the West, after the expiration of a deadline for Iran to accept a United Nations draft nuclear deal, with no clear response yet.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki indicated Friday during a visit to Germany that Tehran and the West "were close to reaching a deal." Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed doubts about the claim and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to issue new conditions that could effectively nix any agreement.
Professor Hooshang Hassan-yari of the Royal Canadian Military College thinks that Saturday's missile test-launch is intended for both internal and external consumption. "If we look at the type of missiles that they talk about, they prepare themselves probably for the coming attack-or that's how they see it-from the U.S. and maybe from the Israelis. So, all of this happens in the context of the anniversary of the Revolution. It happens also in the context of the biggest challenge the Islamic Republic is facing now since 1979. So, there is a mix of messages for internal and external consumption," he said.
Hassan-yari also believes that Iran's need to show off its military prowess is a form of self-justification before its own people due to all the money it spends on its military program. "They have to some extent-justify the huge amounts of money that they spend in the field of missile capability in a context of the hardship that the Iranian population goes through. So, in order to justify their shortcomings in terms of development and social programs, they have show first they are threatened by foreign forces and secondly they have to be able to repel this threat coming from the outside," he said.
Iran regularly boasts that it is capable of hitting Israel as well as U.S. bases in the region with its missiles. Tehran has also repeatedly threatened to target shipping in the Gulf, in addition to blocking the strategic Strait of Hormuz used by oil tankers.