The Islamic Republic of Iran plans to build new high-speed cruise missiles that could pose a significant threat to U.S. ships operating in the Persian Gulf.
Iranian defense minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan announced Sunday that his country made significant advances in surface-to-surface missile technology, and is now close to creating its own supersonic cruise missiles. His statements came during a ceremony unveiling Iran’s first home-grown turbojet engine.
“We have greatly increased the range of our marine cruise missiles and currently possess missiles with a range of 200 kilometers which are anti-ship and anti-surface,” said Dehqan. “We have succeeded in changing the strategic systems of cruise missiles and increasing the power of their engines and ranges.”
Dehqan claimed that Iran’s missile range capabilities have been expanded by two to three times across its arsenal. The upgrades now give Iran’s current stock of cruise missiles the ability to hit targets 62 miles off its coast, easily putting U.S. ships traveling through the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz at risk.
Iran often harrasses U.S. ships operating near the strait. Iranian Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi claimed in January that his forces had missiles locked on to U.S. ships when it captured 10 U.S. sailors who accidentally drifted into Iranian waters.
While the Iranian claims are fantastical, the country’s missile arsenal is large, diverse and poses a very real threat to U.S. ships. Unlike ballistic missiles, cruise missiles are guided by remote control or pre-planned flight routes and travel horizontally, rather than in an arc. Their ability to fly low and horizontally makes them much more difficult to defend against. Some modern cruise missiles are able to carry nuclear warheads, but Iran has yet to master the miniaturization process required to mount them.
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