25 September 2012
Iran has flexed its military might by showing off what it claims is a new "indigenous" reconnaissance drone capable of reaching Israel and launching a series of anti-warship missiles in the Persian Gulf.
In what appears to be a reaction to the recent naval exercise in the region by the US and its allies, Iran's elite revolutionary guards have unveiled an unmanned aerial vehicle, called Shahed-129 (or Witness-129), which is claimed to have a range of up to 2000 kilometres and capable of 24 hour flight.
"The new drone... can carry out combat and reconnaissance missions with its 24-hour non-stop flight capability," reported the website of Iran's state-run English language television, Press TV. "The home-made aircraft is capable of hitting targets at a distance of 1,700-2,000 kilometers... [and] can be equipped with electronic and communication systems including cameras which can capture and send live images," it said.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, which is affiliated to the guards, also reported that the forces have successfully test-fired four anti-missiles in the Persian Gulf. Citing a guards' navy commander, Ali Fadavi, Fars said: "The missiles were fired simultaneously at a sea target as large as a warship and sank it in fifty seconds."
News about Iran's new military advances comes as president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a visit to the UN general assembly in New York that his country did not take threats of an Israeli military strike seriously.
"We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves," he added.
Despite a plea by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who warned the Iranian president recently to avoid "incendiary rhetoric", Ahmadinejad once again used his New York visit to make strongly worded statements about Israel, saying the country had no roots in the Middle East and would be "eliminated".
A White House spokesman reacted by describing his comments as "characteristically disgusting, offensive and outrageous".
In reaction to increasing western economic sanctions and threats of war, Iran has resorted to sabre-rattling and threats to close the strait of Hormuz, a vital passageway in the Gulf where one-fifth of the world's oil passes in tankers.
Recent miltary manoeuvres in the Persian Gulf by the US and its allies are seen as a practice to counter any threat from Tehran to disrupt activities around the strait. "This exercise is about mines and the international effort to clear them," said commander of the US naval forces central command, Vice Admiral John Miller, last week.
Last December, Iranian authorities displayed a US unmanned aerial vehicle, believed to be an RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which they claimed to have brought down electronically. Military experts questioned the veracity of Iranian claims, while the US insisted the drone malfunctioned and was not brought down by Iranian forces.
Iran previously claimed it would dismantle the US drone in order to study
it but it was not clear on Tuesday whether the new Iranian reconnaissance
aircraft had any linkes with the RQ-170.