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August 24, 2010

Iran Says It Test-Fired New Missile

Iran says it has test-fired a new solid-fuel, surface-to-surface missile.  It is the second time this week Iran has announced a new rocket.

The launch of what the government called a new version of Iran's Fateh 110 surface-to-surface missile was shown on government TV, following a series of other alleged new defense technology developments during the past week.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told journalists the new missile was a display of his country's technological prowess and that it was an improvement over its predecessors.   
He said the just-tested Fateh missile uses solid fuel and has a more precise navigation and control system, allowing it to hit its targets with greater precision.

The missile, which is fired from a mobile launch platform, reportedly has a longer range than older versions of the Fateh 110.  Reports say it is nine meters long and weighs about 3,500 kilograms.

Middle East expert Alex Vatanka discusses Iran's demonstration of military hardware:

Defense Minister Vahidi also insisted, when asked if the new missile would target neighboring Kuwait, that the small emirate was "a friendly state" and "posed no threat to Iran."

Tehran unveiled another surface-to-surface missile, last week, called the Qiam-1.  That development was followed by publicity for a new long-range, bomb-equipped, drone aircraft and the opening of a production line for two new missile-equipped speedboats.

The defense announcements come amid escalating speculation about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations.  

University of Birmingham Professor Scott Lucas said Iran's recent show-casing of its military might is, in part, a response to threats against it in the Western media:

"It  is the other side of the threat narrative, that just as you get these whipped up stories in the United States about 'there could well be an Israeli attack on Iran,' that this is how Iran strikes back," said Lucas.  "If you are going to promote the fact that Tehran might be attacked, (Iran) will promote the fact that (it) can defend (itself)."

Lucas also pointed out that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using defense issues to fend off increasingly virulent attacks from his domestic opponents.  "Facing all types of political pressure within the system, and we are not just talking about pressure from the (opposition) Green Movement or reformists, but pressure from other conservatives and from clerics within the system, that you want to present this image of authority, this image of control."

Iran is facing mounting international pressure for its controversial nuclear-enrichment activities.  Iran claims those activities are part of a peaceful, civilian nuclear program.