On Tuesday, Iran said it had developed a new-generation medium-range ballistic missile capable of traveling at hypersonic speeds up to 15 times the speed of sound.
President Ebrahim Raisi hailed the new missile’s hypersonic capabilities, saying it would enhance Iran’s “deterrent force” and “bring peace and stability to the countries of the region,” state television reported.
The official IRNA news agency released photos of the ceremony in a closed room, which it did not identify. Several senior military leaders were present, including the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, General Hossein Salami.
“The range of the Fattah missile is 1,400 kilometers (870 miles), and its speed to hit the target” is 13 to 15 times the speed of sound, IRNA reported.
Like slower ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles can be equipped with nuclear warheads, and Iran’s announcement of warhead production in November prompted International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi to express concern.
But Grossi added that he doesn’t think the new missile “has any impact” on talks with Iran over its nuclear activities.
Negotiations between Tehran and the major powers to restart the 2015 nuclear deal, which was broken when Washington unilaterally abandoned it in 2018 and imposed new sanctions, are now deadlocked.
Since then, Iran has suspended the stringent restrictions it agreed to on its nuclear activities and limited IAEA monitoring in a policy it is only slowly changing.
Unlike conventional ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles fly low in the atmosphere, allowing them to reach their targets faster and be less likely to be intercepted by modern air defense systems.
When the program was announced last year, Aerospace Guard chief General Amirali Hajizadeh said the system was designed to “counter air defense shields,” adding that he thought it would take decades before a system capable of intercepting it could be developed.
Iran’s nemesis Israel, which is widely believed to have its own undeclared nuclear arsenal, has several air defense shields to counter subsonic and supersonic missiles.
North Korea’s test of a hypersonic missile last year raised concerns about a race to acquire the technology, currently led by Russia, followed by China and the United States.
Since March last year, Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic missile has been repeatedly used in the war against Ukraine.