Shahin missile, Iran - AP 9.03.2011
The purported launching of a Shahin missile during war games in Iran in 2011. Photo by AP
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Iran on Monday unveiled underground silos that can carry missiles capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf as it kicked off 10 days of war games, the country's latest show of military force amid a standoff with the West over its disputed nuclear program.

State TV broadcast footage of deep underground silos, claiming that medium- and long-range missiles stored in them are ready to launch in case of an attack on Iran. The silos are widely viewed as a strategic asset for Iran in the event of a U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.

Col. Asghar Qelichkhani, a spokesman for the war games, said the silos "function as a swift-reaction unit."

"Missiles, which are permanently in the vertical position, are ready to hit the pre-determined targets," he was quoted as saying by state TV.

An officer in Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, which is in charge of the missile program, said Tehran has constructed "numerous" underground missile silos which satellites can't detect. He did not elaborate.

The state television report broadcast footage of underground launching pads for the Shahab-3 missile, which have a range of more than 1,240 miles, putting Israel and U.S. -bases in the Gulf region and parts of southeastern and eastern Europe within reach.

The report also showed pictures of missiles being fired from one silo after a large metal roof opened to allow the missile to launch. The TV report said the missile silos are linked to a missile control center.

The commander of the Guard's Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, touted the silos as a crucial asset in its standoff with the West, saying that with "these facilities we are certain that we can confront unequal enemies and defend the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Another unidentified Guards officer told state TV that "only few countries in the world possess the technology to construct underground missile silos. The technology required for that is no less complicated than building the missile itself."

Israel, which views Iran's as an existential threat, has accused Tehran of receiving assistance from North Korea in building underground missile sites.

But Col. Qelichkhani said the silos are based on local technology developed by Iranian experts.

The Iranian war games, which began Monday, are dubbed "The Great Prophet Six" and include tests of long-range missiles such as the Sajjil, which boasts a range similar to that of the Shahab-3 missile.

Iran conducts several war games every year, as part of its military self-sufficiency program that started in 1992, and frequently unveils new weapons and military systems during the drills.

The Islamic Republic remains locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program, which the U.S. ¬and its allies suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies the charges, and says the program is only for peaceful purposes.