DUBAI: Iran claimed on Tuesday that it had created a hypersonic missile capable of traveling at 15 times the speed of sound, adding a new weapon to its arsenal as tensions remain high with the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The new missile — called Fattah, or “Conqueror” in Farsi — was unveiled in a tightly choreographed segment on Iranian state television, which apparently sought to show that Tehran’s hard-line government can still deploy arms against its enemies across much of the Middle East.
“Today we feel that the deterrent power has been formed,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said at the event. “This power is an anchor of lasting security and peace for the regional countries.”
Gen. Amir Ali Hajjizadeh, the head of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace program, unveiled what appeared to be a model of the missile. Hajjizadeh claimed the missile had a range of up to 1,400 kilometers.
That’s about mid-range for Iran’s expansive ballistic missile arsenal, which the Guard has built up over the years as Western sanctions largely prevent it from accessing advanced weaponry.
“There exists no system that can rival or counter this missile,” Hajjizadeh claimed.
That claim, however, depends on how maneuverable the missile is. Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory in which anti-missile systems like the Patriot can anticipate their path and intercept them. Tuesday’s event showed what appeared to be a moveable nozzle for the Fattah, which could allow it to change trajectories in flight. The more irregular the missile’s flight path, the more difficult it becomes to intercept.
Iranian officials also did not release any footage of a successful launch of the Fattah.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose crucial challenges to missile defense systems because of their speed and maneuverability. Iran described the Fattah as being able to reach Mach 15 — which is 15 times the speed of sound.
China is believed to be pursuing the weapons, as is America. Russia claims to already be fielding the weapons and has said it used them on the battlefield in Ukraine. However, speed and maneuverability isn’t a guarantee the missile will successfully strike a target. Ukraine’s air force in May said it shot down a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile with a Patriot battery.