Monday, April 3, 2006

Iran tested an older Scud missile variant last week and often exaggerates its military developments, the Pentagon said yesterday in response to Tehran’s reported testing of new advanced weaponry.

“We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve their weapons systems by both foreign and indigenous measures,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

“It is possible they are increasing their capabilities and making strides in radar-absorbing material and targeting,” he said. “However, the Iranians have been known to boast and exaggerate their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities.”

Iran on Sunday reported that its military had test-fired a high-speed underwater missile and released video footage showing the missile-torpedo hitting a target vessel.

A U.S. official cast doubt on the reported Iranian missile-torpedo but declined to comment on what U.S. intelligence agencies know about the Iranian arsenal.

The missile tests add to growing tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and increased diplomatic activity at the United Nations on how to respond.

At the State Department, spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday that the reported missile tests are a worry.

“It is a further reminder of an aggressive program of development of weapons systems and development and deployment of weapons systems that many of us see as threatening, I think first and foremost, to those nations of the Gulf that are most immediately connected to or in most immediate proximity to Iran,” he told reporters.

Russia has a high-technology torpedo that uses rocket technology to propel it under water at high speeds. Moscow in the past has supplied Iran with missile technology and may have provided data on its Skval, as the rocket-powered torpedo is called, U.S. officials said.

An Iranian general said the Iranian military test-fired a new missile Friday that had the capability to evade enemy sensors and carried multiple warheads.

A defense official confirmed that the Iranians’ test was a Shahab-2, Tehran’s designation for the Scud-C missile, which has a range of up to 310 miles. It was not a new missile as Iranian press reported.

Mr. Whitman said yesterday that Iran’s military program is “centered on its ballistic-missile program, which Tehran views as its primary deterrent.”

“It has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East,” he said. “Over the past year, Iran has continued testing its medium-range ballistic missile and has also tested anti-ship missiles. As Iran has been working on its ballistic-missile program, it is not surprising that they have tested this Scud-C.”

Iran has three types of unguided artillery rockets: the Zelzal, Fajir-3 and Fajir-4. Its ballistic missiles include two types of Scuds, Shahab-1 and -2, and its 620-mile-range Shahab-3. It also has an extended-range version of the Shahab-3.

U.S. officials said Iran also has Chinese-made C-801 anti-ship missiles that Tehran could use to disrupt shipping in the Persian Gulf and limit supplies of oil to other parts of the world.

Uzi Rubin, a private missile threat specialist, said Iran’s claim to have a multiple-warhead missile are far-fetched. The warhead could be a “frangible” re-entry vehicle capable of releasing several bomblets above the altitude of most air defenses, a system China is said to be developing.

“The Iranian’s general description is similar to the Russian description of the Iskander E, save for the multiple targeting,” Mr. Rubin said, noting that it is unlikely the Iranians had purchased the new Russian short-range missile.

Mr. Rubin said it is likely the Iranian missile claim is a boast.

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