Iran said it successfully test-fired short-range missiles during drills on Sunday by the elite Revolutionary Guard, a show of force days after the US and its allies condemned Tehran over a newly revealed underground nuclear facility that was being secretly constructed.
English-language Press TV reported the Fateh-110, Tondar-69 and Zelzal were test fired in a missile defense exercise, but did not give specifics on range or other details. All are short-range, surface-to-surface missiles.
Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, told reporters Iran tested a multiple missile launcher for the first time. Press TV showed pictures of at least two missiles being fired simultaneously and said they were from Sunday's drill in a desert in central Iran. In the clip, men could be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" as the missiles were launched.
"The message of the war game for some arrogant countries which intend to intimidate is that we are able to give a proper, strong answer to their hostility quickly," the Web site of state television quoted Salami as saying. He said the missiles successfully hit their targets.
Salami told reporters Iran had reduced the missiles and their ranges so they could be used in quick, short-range engagements. He also said Iran would test medium-range Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles on Sunday night and long-range Shahab-3 missiles on Monday, during the drill set to last several days. The Revolutionary Guard controls Iran's missile program.
The tests came two days after Western countries disclosed that Iran had been secretly developing a previously unknown underground uranium enrichment facility. The nuclear site in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom is believed to be inside a heavily guarded, underground facility belonging to the Revolutionary Guard, according to a document sent by President Barack Obama's administration to lawmakers.
After strong condemnations from the US and its allies, and a demand to open the site to international scrutiny, Iran said Saturday it will allow UN nuclear inspectors to examine the site. Nuclear experts said the details that have emerged about the site and the fact it was being developed secretly are strong indications that Iran's nuclear program is not only for peaceful purposes, as the country has long maintained.
Salami said the current missile tests and military drills are indications of Iran's resolve to defend its national values and part of a strategy of deterrence and containment of missile threats. He told reporters Iran had enhanced the speed and precision of the missiles so they could be used in short-term or quick engagements. He said they are now able to be launched from positions that are not as easy to hit.
Iran has had the solid-fuel Fateh missile, with a range of 120 miles (193 kilometers), for several years. Fateh means conqueror in Farsi and Arabic. It also has the solid-fueled, Chinese-made CSS 8, also called the Tondar 69, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a private group that seeks to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The Tondar, which means thunder, has a range of about 93 miles (150 kilometers.)
Iran has previously tested the Zelzal missile, versions of which have ranges of 130-185 miles (210-200 kilometers. In July 2006, Israeli military officials said their jets had destroyed a missile in Lebanon named Zelzal, which they said Hezbollah had received from Iran and could reach Tel Aviv. Zelzal means earthquake in Farsi and Arabic.
Iran's last known missile tests were in May when it fired its longest-range solid-fuel missile, Sajjil-2. Tehran said the two-stage surface-to-surface missile has a range of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers, capable of striking Israel, US Mideast bases and Europe.