Iran test launches enhanced missile

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Iran has completed the first launch of its enhanced Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile.

The Islamic republic termed the Shihab-3 launch a success. Officials said the test took place on Wednesday and was a followup to an August missile exercise, Middle East Newsline reported.

"A few minutes ago, Iran test-fired a more accurate version of the Shihab-3 in the presence of observers," Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said on Wednesday.

Shamkhani, speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting, said the test was within the framework of the "Defensive Shield Exercise." He would not disclose the range of the missile.

"We tested the range, the destructive capacity, the guidance system and its capability to strike a defined target," Shamkhani was quoted by the Iranian Student News Agency as saying. "We invited all those who had doubts, but there were no foreign observers. Some people had expressed doubts over the success of our test so we carried out a new test."

On Aug. 11, Iran held a command and control exercise for the enhanced Shihab-3, based on North Korea's No-Dong. Western intelligence sources said the exercise tested the speed with which the Shihab could be prepared for launch.

But the sources said the Shihab-3 test did not include full flight. They said this sparked a debate within the U.S. intelligence community over the success of the Iranian missile exercise.

Last month, Shamkhani said Iran introduced a "strategic missile" to its military arsenal after a successful test. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was said to have obtained its first Shihab-3 in July 2003.

In early October, Iran said its enhanced Shihab-3 missile provided Teheran with the capability to launch a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers. Officials have already deemed the Shihab-3 as capable of reaching a range of 1,700 kilometers.

Western intelligence sources said Iran has also completed the development of a warhead for the Shihab-3 that could carry a nuclear payload. The sources said the warhead resembled the design of 1960s-era intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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