233 MILES PER HOUR UNDERWATER
Sunday , April 02, 2006
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran announced its second major new missile test within days, saying Sunday it has successfully fired a high-speed torpedo capable of destroying huge warships and submarines.
The tests came during war games that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have been holding in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea since Friday at a time of increased tensions with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program.
The Iranian-made torpedo — called the "Hoot," or "whale" — has a speed of 223 miles per hour, said Gen. Ali Fadavi, deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards' Navy.
That would make it about three or four times faster than a normal torpedo and as fast as the world's known fastest, the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, developed in 1995. It was not immediately known if the Hoot was based on the Shkval.
"It has a very powerful warhead designed to hit big submarines. Even if enemy warship sensors identify the missile, no warship can escape from this missile because of its high speed," Fadavi told state-run television.
It was not immediately clear whether the torpedo can carry a nuclear warhead.
State-run television, which stopped its normal programs to break news of the test, showed a brief clip of the launch from a ship into the waters of the Gulf. Television pictures also showed the torpedo hitting the target, a ship on the surface of the water.
The new weapon could raise concerns over Iran's naval power in the Gulf, where during the war with Iraq in the 1980s Iranian forces attacked oil tankers from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, prompting a massive U.S. naval operation to protect them. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is based on the tiny Arab island nation of Bahrain in the Gulf.
Cmdr. Jeff Breslau of the 5th Fleet said no special measures were taken by U.S. forces based on Bahrain in reaction to the Iranian war games, even after the latest missile test.
"They can conduct exercises whenever they want and they frequently do, just as we do. We conduct exercises throughout this region," he told The Associated Press by telephone.
He would not comment on whether the new torpedo represents a threat to American forces in the region.
"In general terms, no matter where we operate in the world, we're aware of other capabilities that exist and of other countries that aren't as friendly to the U.S., and we pay attention to those capabilities," he said.
On Friday, the first day of the war games, Iran test-fired the Fajr-3 missile, which can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads. The Guards said the test was successful.
More than 17,000 Revolutionary Guards forces are taking part in the weeklong maneuvers. On Sunday, paratroops practiced a drop in an attack on a mock enemy position, and warships, jet fighters, helicopters and sophisticated electronic equipment were used in other exercises.
Iran, which views the United States as an arch foe and is concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, says the maneuvers aim to develop the Guards' defensive capabilities.
Iran has routinely held war games over the past two decades to improve its combat readiness and test locally made equipment such as missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
The missile tests and war games this time around coincide with increasing tension between Iran and the West over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
The United States and its allies believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies that, saying its program is for generating electricity.
The U.N. Security Council is demanding that Iran halt its uranium enrichment activities. But an Iranian envoy said its activities are "not reversible."
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.