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 launched two long-range missiles into the Indian Ocean in February, Iranian news agencies reported yesterday, quoting as their source the commander of the Aerospace Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The commander, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said that if Iran is attacked, it can retaliate by targeting American aircraft carriers in the region, which he described as “moving targets.” Hajizadeh said the launch test included firing two missiles from the Semnan province in the north of the country. He said American spy planes were operating in the area, but “curiously didn’t report that.”

Iran has claimed for some time that it has rockets with a range of 2,000 km. but a statement on their actual launch for such a distance is unusual, as is the choice of direction − toward the Indian Ocean.

Israeli missiles expert Uzi Rubin told Haaretz that launching a missile into the ocean at such a distance shows the Iranians’ ability to chart the course of the missiles and pinpoint the landing location. He said this was a breakthrough that would allow the Iranians to go on increasing the range of their missiles, if they so desire.

“This is the first tangible evidence that the Iranian Shihab 3 missile can actually reach that range,” said Rubin, former head of Israel’s Wall ‏(Homa‏) missile defense program. He said such a range would allow Iranians to hit targets not only in the Persian Gulf and in Israel, but also in Europe.

Rubin told Haaretz he believes the improvement from the Shihab’s previously proved range of 1,300 km. may have been achieved through constructing the body of the missile out of aluminum, rather than steel. “It’s a complicated technical project that would involve redesigning the missile and significantly upgrading its various capabilities,” he said.

The United Nations reported recently that Iran tried to launch a long-range Sijil missile in October. The report was not officially released, due to fierce Chinese opposition to the release of the information, but reports were distributed to media outlets and websites. The failure of the Iranian commander to mention that experiment could mean it ended in failure.

The missiles launched in February were one Sijil and one Shihab 3 missile. “The ability to launch a Sijil again after an apparent failure in October, within just four months, is very impressive,” Rubin said.