Iran Tests Missile Capable of Hitting Israel
Aug 11, 9:37 AM (ET)
By Paul Hughes
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's defense ministry said on Wednesday it had carried out a field test of the latest version of its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile which defense experts say can reach Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf.
Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said last week Iran was working on improvements to the range and accuracy of the Shahab-3 in response to Israel's moves to boost its anti-missile capability.
A defense ministry spokesman confirmed a state television report that the test was carried out "to assess the latest developments implemented on this missile." He declined to give any further details.
Iran says its missile program is purely for deterrent purposes. Tehran also denies U.S. and Israeli accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear warheads which could be delivered by the Shahab-3.
Based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and modified with Russian technology, the Shahab-3 is thought to have a range of 810 miles which would allow it to strike anywhere in Israel. Shahab means meteor in Persian.
Amid media speculation that Israel may try to halt Iran's nuclear program by carrying out air strikes on some atomic facilities in Iran, Iranian officials have said Tehran would retaliate promptly and strongly to any such attack.
"If Israel behaves like a lunatic and attacks the Iranian nation's interests, we will come down on their heads like a mallet and break their bones," the ISNA students news agency quoted Revolutionary Guards Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying on Wednesday.
Israel successfully tested its Arrow II anti-missile project in the United States last month. It was the seventh time the Arrow II had worked but the first time it had destroyed a Scud missile -- similar to the Shahab-3 -- in flight.
"The Israelis have recently tried to increase their missile capability and we will also try to upgrade our Shahab-3 missile in every respect," the ISNA students news agency quoted Shamkhani as saying last week.
He said the improvements to the Shahab-3 "will not be limited to the missile's range and will include all its specifications."
Iran deployed the Shahab-3 missiles to its Revolutionary Guards last July after preliminary field tests were successfully completed.
Six of the sand-colored missiles, bearing slogans which said "We will stamp on America" and "We will wipe Israel from the face of the earth," were displayed at an annual military parade last September.
Iran has not said how many of the missiles it has so far manufactured. Military analysts say questions remain about its reliability and accuracy.
A senior Israeli defense source said Israel believed Tehran was developing a Shahab-4 missile with a range of 1,700 km capable of reaching Europe. Iran has denied this.
"This 'new and improved' Shahab-3 could well be Iran's way of producing the extended-range missile while avoiding the Mark-4 label which would draw international concern," he said. (Additional reporting by Amir Paivar in Tehran, Dan Williams in Jerusalem)