'Iran debut of missile upgrade is a 'veiled threat"

Tehran claims Fateh-110 "most precise and advanced" of it's kind; security expert says acts as threat to US assets in Persian Gulf.

Iranian Fateh-110 missile 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian Fateh-110 missile 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran’s announcement of an “upgrade” to its short-range Fateh-110 missiles is an implied threat to the US military presence in the Gulf area, an Israeli security expert has said.
Iran unveiled upgrades to six weapons on Tuesday, including what it claimed was a more accurate short-range missile with a range of about 300 km.
Iran said earlier this month it had successfully test-fired the new model, which it said was equipped with an upgraded guidance system.
“This missile is one of the most precise and advanced land-to-land ballistic missiles using solid fuel,” Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. “In the last decade it has had a significant role in promoting the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defense capabilities.”
Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said it was a “good guess” to assume that the Iranian announcement alluded to US interests in the Gulf.
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“The fact that Iran indicated that it can hit both land targets and targets at sea [with the Fateh-110 missile] seems to hint at least that this kind of message is directed at the US,” she told The Jerusalem Post.
The US maintains a military base in Qatar and a presence in Kuwait, and routinely deploys warships and aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf as part of its security commitment to the area, which includes a vow to keep the oil route of the Strait of Hormuz open.
In addition to the hinted threat, Landau said, “Iran is always announcing all of their military developments. I don’t know any other country that is so prone to announcing every single military development.
They have special days for the messages.” Tuesday’s Iranian boast came on Defense Industry Day, she noted.
“There is a deterrence message that the Iranians are trying to get across,” Landau said, in reference to the threat of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program by Israel or the US.
Landau said Iran also claimed it was developing nuclear-powered submarines, in order to “create some other explanation for enriching uranium to high levels, other than trying to develop nuclear capabilities.”
The flow of Iranian rhetoric also suggests that the Islamic Republic is feeling nervous and vulnerable due to the threat of a strike, she added.
Some military experts have cast doubt on Iran’s claims of weapons advances, especially its assertions about its missile program, saying it often exaggerates its capabilities.
“The Fateh-110 has a crude guidance and control system that operates during the missile’s ascent” rather than during final descent, Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters in an email.
“The Fateh-110 appears to lack the subsystems needed to effect terminal steering,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Iran released plans to launch domestically-manufactured fighter jets and new submarines by early 2013, as well as the production of drones.
The hardware was presented at a ceremony that was attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In July, Iran said it had successfully test-fired medium-range missiles capable of hitting Israel, and tested dozens of missiles aimed at simulated air bases.
It also presented a more powerful, 5,000-horsepower seaborne engine, the Bonyan- 4, Fars quoted Vahidi as saying.
A previous version had 1,000 horsepower, the Iranian Students News Agency said.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.