| A protester wipes tears as British television star Joanna Lumley looks on during an anti-war demonstration in central London on Sunday where the names of 1,000 Iraqi civilians killed during the conflict were read out. (Reuters)
Tehran, April 2 (Reuters): Iran has test-fired a sonar-evading underwater missile that can outpace any enemy warship, a senior naval commander told state television today during a week of war games in the Gulf.
Western nations have been watching developments in Iran’s missile capabilities with concern amid a standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme, which the West says is aimed at building atomic bombs. Iran says the programme is only civilian.
Analysts say the US could take military action against Iran if it fails to resolve the nuclear dispute through diplomatic means. Iranian commanders say their armed forces are ready to respond to any attack.
Iran earlier in the war games said it tested a radar-evading missile and today’s announcement is likely to add to western worries. Iran has a commanding position over the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, a shipping route through which passes some two-fifths of all the oil traded in the world.
“This missile evades sonar technology under the water and even if the enemy sonar system could detect its movement under the water, no warship could escape from it because of its high velocity,” Revolutionary Guards Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said.
“The Islamic republic is now among the only two countries who hold this kind of missile. Under the water the maximum speed that a missile could (usually) move is 25 metres per second, but now we possess a missile which goes as fast as 100 metres per second,” he told state television.
The commander used the word “missile” in Farsi, rather than “torpedo”.
“The boats that can launch this missile have a technology that makes them stealthy and nobody could recognise them or act against them,” he said.
Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, said the missile test should not worry the world. He said that, to his knowledge, the weapon could not carry a nuclear warhead.
“The world should not worry because any country has its own self-defence conventional military activities,” he told CNN.
State television earlier described the missile as the world’s fastest. It also showed images of the weapon being fired from what appeared to be the deck of a ship, followed by the weapon travelling at speed through water. “It carries a very powerful warhead that enables it to operate against groups of warships and big submarines,” Fadavi said.
The test was part of a week of Iranian naval manoeuvres that started on Friday and taking place in the Gulf and Sea of Oman. The official IRNA news agency said the manoeuvres were to show Iran’s “defensive capabilities”.
On Friday, Iran said it had successfully test-fired a domestically produced, radar-evading missile, and released images of it being launched into the air from land.
Iranian state television said that missile was called the Fajr-3. But Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards air force, did not name the new weapon or give the its range, saying it depended on the warhead weight.
The US-based military affairs website globalsecurity.org describes the Fajr-3 as a 240 mm artillery rocket with a 40-km 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.
Diplomats in Europe said this month that Iran was stepping up development of other missiles capable of carrying atomic warheads. An Iranian official denied the charge.