Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Iran claims third missile test

USA Today:

Updated 4/5/2006 1:53 PM

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran said Wednesday it has successfully test-fired a "top secret" missile, the third in a week, state-run television reported.

The report called the missile an "ultra-horizon" weapon and said it could be fired from all military helicopters and jet fighters.

The tests came amid war games being held since Friday by the elite Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea at a time of increased tension with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iranian television called it a "turning point" in its missile tests but gave no other details.

At the same time, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, said the United States must recognize Iran as a "big, regional power."

Speaking on state television, Safavi said Iran could use the Straits of Hormuz to apply pressure on foreign powers. About two-fifths of the world's oil supplies pass through the 34-mile-wide entrance to the Gulf.

"The Straits of Hormuz are a point of control and economic pressure on the energy transfer route for those foreign powers that might want to undermine regional security," Safavi said.

He reiterated that Iran could defend itself against any invasion and added: "I advise Americans not to move toward a military strike against Iran."

On Tuesday, Safavi called for foreign forces to leave the region. The U.S. 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain.

That same day, Iran tested a new surface-to-sea radar-avoiding missile equipped with remote-control and searching systems, state TV reported. It said the new missile, called Kowsar, was a medium-range weapon that Iran could mass-produce.

It also said the Kowsar's guidance system could not be scrambled, and it had been designed to sink ships.

On Friday, Iran tested the Fajr-3, a missile that it said can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads. Iran also has tested what it calls two new torpedoes. One of the torpedoes, unveiled Monday, was tested in the Straits of Hormuz. That seemed to be a clear warning to the United States that Iran believes it has the capability to disable oil tankers moving through the Gulf.

The Revolutionary Guards have been holding their maneuvers — code-named the "Great Prophet" — since Friday.

Some military analysts in Moscow said it appears the high-speed torpedoes likely were Russian-built weapons that may have been acquired from China or Kyrgyzstan.

Others have questioned their capabilities of evading advanced radar systems such as those in Israel.

The United States said Monday that while Iran may have made "some strides" in its military, it likely is exaggerating its capabilities.

"We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve their weapons system by both foreign and indigenous measures," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. "It's possible that they are increasing their capability and making strides in radar-absorbing materials and technology."

But "the Iranians have also been known to boast and exaggerate their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities," he said.

Safavi on Wednesday rejected the U.S. claims that Iran had exaggerated its capabilities.

"They tried to say what is related to our equipment was just a bluff. But we announce that the advanced equipment were based on a real and domestic industry," he said.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded Iran give up uranium enrichment, a crucial part of the nuclear process. Washington is pressing for sanctions if Tehran continues its refusal to do so, though U.S. officials have not ruled out military action as an eventual option, insisting they will not allow Iran to gain a nuclear arsenal.

On Tuesday, state TV also said the Revolutionary Guards had tested what it called a "super-modern flying boat" capable of evading radar.

The report showed the boat, looking like an aircraft, taking off from the sea and flying low over the water.

Iran has held war games for two decades to improve its combat readiness and test locally made equipment.

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.


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