Published January 02, 2012
| Associated Press
TEHRAN – Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface cruise missile on Monday during a drill that the country's navy chief said proved Tehran was in complete control of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-sixth of the world's oil supply.
The missile, called Ghader, or Capable in Farsi, was described as an upgraded version of a missile that has been in service before. The official IRNA news agency said the missile "successfully hit its intended target" during the exercise.
No other details were released about Ghader. An earlier version of the same cruise missile had a range of 124 miles and could travel at low altitudes. There were suggestions it could counter the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.
Iran's 10-day navy drill, which ends Tuesday, was Tehran's latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its nuclear program. The exercise came amid conflicting comments from Iranian officials over Tehran's intentions to close the Strait of Hormuz, and U.S. warnings against such an ominous move.
"The Strait of Hormuz is completely under our control," Iran's navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said after Monday's test. "We do not allow any enemy to pose threats to our interests."
The latest version of the Ghader was delivered in September to the naval division of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which is assigned to protect Iranian sea borders. At the time, Tehran said the missile is capable of destroying warships.
"In comparison with the previous version, the highly advanced Ghader missile system has been upgraded in terms of its radar, satellite communications, precision in target destruction, as well as range and radar-evading mechanism," said Rear Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi, a spokesman for the drill.
State TV showed footage Monday depicting the launch of two missiles, which were fired into the sky and which the TV said could hit targets "hundreds of kilometers (miles) away" from the point of origin. The broadcast said two more missiles, with a shorter range, were also tested Monday.
"We conducted the drill ... to let everybody know that Iran's defense and deterrence powers on the open seas and the Strait of Hormuz are aimed at defending our borders, resources and our nation," said Sayyari, the navy chief.
The testing comes a day after Iran test-fired an advanced surface-to-air missile called Mehrab, or Altar in Farsi, which was described as medium-range.
Iran had said the sea maneuvers would cover a 1,250-mile stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, as well as parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
A leading Iranian lawmaker said Sunday the maneuvers served as practice for closing the Strait of Hormuz if the West blocks Iran's oil sales. After top Iranian officials made the same threat a week ago, military commanders emphasized that Iran has no intention of blocking the waterway now.
Mousavi on Sunday also emphasized that Iran has no plan to choke the strait. "We won't disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. We are not after this," the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Mousavi said the drill was "tactical" and meant to show Iran was capable of assuming full control over the strait in case this became necessary.
The West fears Iran's program aims to develop atomic weapons -- a charge Tehran denies, insisting it's for peaceful purposes only.