World Tribune – July 25, 2012
The U.S. intelligence community has determined that the Iran Navy has enhanced its missile arsenal over the last few years. In a report, the community said Iran’s missiles, particularly its anti-ship weapons, were increasing in range and accuracy.
“Short-range ballistic missiles provide Teheran with an effective mobile capability to strike partner forces in the region,” the report, titled “Annual Report on Military Power of Iran,” said. “Iran continues to improve the survivability of these systems against missile defenses.”
The report, submitted by the Defense Department to Congress, was said to reflect a change in the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community. Until 2012, most of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies had dismissed Iran’s missile arsenal as inaccurate and ineffective against enemy military targets.
Signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on June 29, the report said the Iran Navy was developing its anti-ship cruise missile capability. The capability was meant to allow the firing of missiles that could identify and loiter over targets before a strike.
“It is also developing and claims to have deployed short-range ballistic missiles with seekers that enable the missile to identify and maneuver toward ships during flight,” the report said. “This technology also may be capable of striking land-based targets.”
China was said to have played a major role in enhancing Iran’s anti-ship missile arsenal. The report cited similarities in Iranian and Chinese anti-ship programs.
Iran has also improved its medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Some of these missiles, including the solid-fuel Ashura and the liquid-fuel Shihab-3, were tested in major Iranian military exercises in 2012.
“Beyond steady growth in its missile and rocket inventories, Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with accuracy improvements and new submunition payloads,” the report said. “Iran’s missile force consists chiefly of mobile missile launchers that are not tethered to specific physical launch positions.”
The Pentagon determined that Israel marked the key target of Iran’s missile program. Since 2008, Iran has been firing multi-stage space-launch vehicles that could serve as a test bed for the development of intercontinental ballistic missile technologies.
“Iran may be technically capable of flight testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015,” the report said.