Tensions rise as Iran's Revolutionary Guards test underwater missile

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The Independent Online

Iran announced its second major new missile test within days, saying it has successfully fired a high-speed underwater missile capable of destroying warships and submarines.

The tests came during war games that elite Revolutionary Guards have been holding in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea since Friday at a time of increased tensions with the US over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The Iranian-made underwater missile has a speed of 223mph, said General Ali Fadavi, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards' navy. That would make it about three or four times faster than a torpedo and as fast as the world's fastest known underwater missile, the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, developed in 1995.

"No warship can escape from this missile because of its high speed," General Fadavi said.

It was not immediately clear whether the ship-fired missile can carry a nuclear warhead. The new weapon could raise concerns over Iran's naval power in the Gulf, where during its war with Iraq in the 1980s Iran attacked oil tankers from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, prompting a massive US naval operation to protect them. The US Navy's 5th Fleet is based on the island nation of Bahrain in the Gulf.

Commander Jeff Breslau of the 5th Fleet said no special measures were taken by US forces based on Bahrain in reaction to the Iranian war games, even after the latest missile test. "They can conduct exercises whenever they want and they frequently do, just as we do," he said.

Iran, which is concerned about the US military presence in neighbouring Afghanistan and Iraq, says the manoeuvres aim to develop the Guards' defensive capabilities. Iran launched an arms development programme during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a US-led weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced tanks, armoured personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.

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