Iran test fires new torpedo in key Gulf oil nexus

  • World
  • Monday, 03 Apr 2006

By Sue Pleming

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran test fired a new torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz off its south coast, the world's main nexus for shipping oil, state television reported on Monday. 

Iran rarely gives enough details of its military hardware for analysts to determine whether Tehran is making genuine advances or simply producing defiant propaganda while pressure ratchets up on its nuclear programme. 

Although Iran can draw on huge manpower, its naval and air force technology is largely dismissed as outmoded. 

"Revolutionary Guard naval forces a few minutes ago test fired a powerful torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz. This torpedo is capable of destroying enemy warships and submarines at any depth and moving at any speed," state television said. 

The test comes in the middle of Gulf wargames that started on Friday. Iran earlier in the wargames said it had tested a radar-evading missile and an underwater missile that can outpace enemy warships. 

The Pentagon said on Monday it is possible Iran has produced missiles capable of evading radar and sonar as Tehran has stated in recent days, but added that the Iranians have been known to "boast and exaggerate." 

Iran said in February last year that it had started a mass production line of torpedoes. 

The Islamic Republic has three elderly Kilo class diesel-electric Russian submarines. These are capable of firing homing torpedoes but military analysts say these vessels are unsuited to modern naval combat. 

Iran has also started building midget submarines, which it says are capable of firing torpedoes. 

Earlier in the day, Rear Admiral Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani said Iran would have further important announcements to make over the course of the wargames. 

"We are going to have very important news that will make our nation proud in the next few days," he told state television. 

"We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve their weapons systems by both foreign and indigenous measures. It's possible that they are increasing their capability and making strides in radar-absorbing materials and targeting," said Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman. 

"However, the Iranians have been known also to boast and exaggerate their statements about great technical and tactical capabilities," Whitman added. 

"Iran's military developments have centered on its ballistic missile program, which Tehren views as its primary deterrent. It has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East," Whitman said. "Over the past year, Iran has continued testing its medium-range ballistic missiles, and has also tested anti-ship missiles," Whitman added. 

Western nations have been watching developments in Iran's ballistic missile capabilities with concern amid a standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme, which the West says is aimed at building atomic bombs. Tehran says the programme is only civilian. 

The United States and Israel have consistently declined to rule out military action against Iran if Tehran fails to resolve the nuclear dispute through diplomatic means. 

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