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Augmented Iranian Missile Succeeds in Trial, Defense Minister Says

Iranian leaders look at a Fateh 110 ballistic missile in a 2007 military parade. Tehran on Saturday said it had tested a longer-range, higher-accuracy version of the weapon (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian). Iranian leaders look at a Fateh 110 ballistic missile in a 2007 military parade. Tehran on Saturday said it had tested a longer-range, higher-accuracy version of the weapon (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian).

An updated, more precise iteration of Iran's Fateh 110 ballistic missile performed as intended in a trial flight, the nation's defense minister said on Saturday (see GSN, July 26).

The solid-fuel weapon can hit a location with higher accuracy than any other Iranian armament of its type, the Associated Press quoted Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as saying. He said the newly vetted missile can travel up to 185 miles; its prior build, placed on active duty one decade ago, could fly up to 120 miles, according to AP.

"By reaching this generation of the Fateh 110, a new capability has been added to our armed forces in striking sea and land targets," Vahidi said in a government television report. "Few countries in the world possess the technology to build such missiles" (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press/Washington Post, Aug. 4).

"Using new guidance methods, target-striking systems were installed on the missiles and during the flight test ... its ability to hit the target without deviation was proven," he added in remarks quoted by Reuters.

"In future programs, all future missiles built by the Defense Ministry will be equipped with this capability," the official stated in an Islamic Republic News Agency report.

"These capabilities are defensive and would only be used against aggressors and those who threaten the country's interests and territorial integrity," Vahidi added (Yeganeh Torbati, Reuters, Aug. 4).

Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization created the one-stage, domestically manufactured weapon, AP reported.

Both Israel and the United States have said that use of military force remains an option in dealing with Iran's contested atomic program, which they suspect is aimed at producing a nuclear-weapon capability. Tehran says its nuclear operations are strictly civilian in nature.

The Persian Gulf regional power has moved to augment its navy and anti-air weaponry, as its top armed forces officials have voiced an expectation for land battles to assume a relatively low profile in new conflicts. The country's missile arsenal -- presently suited to hit locations in Israel as well as regional U.S. installations -- has been subject to attempts at further augmentation (see GSN, July 11).

Among Iran's more extended-distance weaponry is an iteration of its Shahab 3 ballistic missile suited to hit destinations within 1,200 miles, placing Israel and southern Europe within reach. Tehran could hypothetically fit an atomic payload to a significant number of the its delivery vehicles, according to AP (Dareini, Associated Press).

The International Institute for Strategic Studies in 2010 said the Iranian ballistic missile program had achieved "robust strides," Reuters reported. Still, the precision of Iranian missiles was an area of shortcoming, according to the organization in London (Torbati, Reuters).

The latest missile trial prompted an expression of alarm by the United Kingdom, AP reported.

“This move calls into question again Iran’s stated commitment to a purely peaceful nuclear program,” the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated on Saturday. “We remain concerned that Iran continues to develop missile technology with the clear intention of extending the range and sophistication of its missiles” (Dareini, Associated Press).

Iran specialist Meir Javedanfar said "the test firing of the missile is most likely to be a warning to the West and Iran's Persian Gulf neighbors that Iran too can escalate the level of tensions in the Persian Gulf area," Reuters reported.

Refinements to the precision capabilities of more limited-distance Iranian armaments could pave the way for strides on weapons capable of traveling farther, according to Bruno Gruselle, an analyst with the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

"Fateh is a very short range guided rocket and a good platform to test improved guidance," Gruselle stated. "They will have to take that to longer range systems which have very different mechanical constraints during their flight, but they will obviously work on that" (Torbati, Reuters).

Meanwhile, a new Iranian spacecraft deployment facility is said to be in the final stages of development, United Press International reported on Friday (see GSN, June 4).

Vahidi in June said the site's preparation was four-fifths done. Its completion would bring Tehran nearer to an ICBM construction capacity, according to analysts in Western nations (United Press International, Aug. 3).

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