Iran Test-Fires Sub-to-Surface Missile in Persian Gulf

Iran test fired a new submarine-to-surface missile during war games in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, a show of military might amid a standoff with the West over its nuclear activities.

A brief video clip showed the long-range missile, called Thaqeb, or Saturn, exiting the water and hitting a target on the water's surface within less than a mile. The test came as part of large-scale military exercises that began Aug. 19.

"The army successfully test fired a top speed long-range sub-to-surface missile off the Persian Gulf," the navy commander, Gen. Sajjad Kouchaki, said on state-run television.

Iran routinely has held war games over the past two decades to improve its combat readiness and to test equipment including missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

But Sunday's firing of the missile came as Iran remains defiant just five days before a deadline imposed by the U.N. Security Council for Tehran to suspend the enrichment of uranium, which can produce both reactor fuel and material usable in nuclear warheads.

Iran said last week it is open to negotiations but it refused any immediate suspension, calling the deadline illegal.

Tehran has expressed worry about Israeli threats to destroy its nuclear facilities, which the West contends could be used to make a bomb but which Iran insists are for the peaceful purpose of generating electricity. The Islamic country also is concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an advance for Iran's weapons industry, the Thaqeb is the country's first sub-fired missile that leaves the water to strike its target, adding to the country's repertoire of weapons that can hit ships in the Gulf.

Iran's current arsenal includes several types of torpedoes — including the "Hoot," Farsi for "whale," which was tested for the first time in April, capable of moving at some 223 mph, up to four times faster than a normal torpedo.

Kouchaki said the Thaqeb could be fired from any vessel and could escape enemy radar. He said it was built based on domestic know-how, although outside experts say much of the country's missile technology originated from other countries like Russia and China.

He did not give the weapon's range. It did not appear capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Iran already is equipped with the Shahab-3 missile, which means "shooting star" in Farsi, and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. An upgraded version of the ballistic missile has a range of more than 1,200 miles and can reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Last year, former Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Tehran successfully had tested a solid fuel motor for the Shahab-3, which was considered a technological breakthrough for the country's military.

Solid fuel dramatically increases the accuracy of a missile while a liquid fuel missile is not very accurate in hitting targets.

Iran's military test-fired a series of missiles during large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf in March and April, including a missile it claimed was not detectable by radar and can use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously.

After decades of relying on foreign weapons purchases, Iran's military has been working to boost its domestic production of armaments.

Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane, the government has said. It announced in early 2005 that it had begun production of torpedoes.