The Guardian / June 6, 2023
Tehran claims Fattah missile has 870-mile range and previously said it could hit Israel within 400 seconds.
Iran has alarmed Israel by unveiling what it claims is its first domestically made hypersonic missile. It had previously said it would be able to hit Israel within 400 seconds.
The Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, attended the unveiling of the missile, named Fattah, or “conqueror” in Farsi. It is claimed to have a range of 870 miles (1,400km), to be able to travel at up to 15 times the speed of sound and to bypass air defence systems.
Hypersonic missiles can fly at least at Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound – and their speed and claimed maneuverability is believed to make them difficult to intercept. Only four other countries claim to have them in their arsenals.
Iran said in November it was on the way to building a hypersonic ballistic missile that could manoeuvre in and out of the atmosphere. “It can bypass the most advanced anti-ballistic missile systems of the US and the Zionist regime, including Israel’s Iron Dome,” Iran’s state TV said.
Raisi claimed in a segment on Iranian state TV unveiling the Fattah that it was a deterrent that would be “a point of security and stable peace” for the region.
“This missile power means that the region will be safe from evildoers and foreign aggression,” he said. “So its message to the people of the region is a message of security, and its message to those who are thinking of attacking Iran is that the Islamic Republic is a powerful country and its power aims to support the people of Iran and the oppressed people of the world.”
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the aerospace force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, called the Fattah “a missile that is unique in the world”. Iran has not described any actual launch of the missile and Hajizadeh later said there had been a ground test of the missile’s engine, which involves a rocket motor being put on a stand and fired to check its abilities.
China is believed to be pursuing hypersonic missiles, as is the US. Russia claims to already be fielding the weapons and has said it has used them on the battlefield in Ukraine. Ukraine’s air force said in May it had shot down a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile with US Patriot air defences.
In the past Iran has been accused of inflating its missile technology claims. The reports come just as Israel expressed growing alarm that the west was considering a new negotiation with Tehran to reinvigorate the stalled nuclear deal controlling Iran’s civil nuclear program. The UN nuclear inspectorate, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also said it had reached an initial agreement with its Iranian counterparts to reinvigorate its severely curtailed inspection process.
The IAEA also said Iran had given an explanation for depleted uranium traces at one site, known as Marivan, saying it was due to the presence of a mine and laboratory.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Iran’s explanation was “technically impossible”, adding: “The agency’s capitulation to Iranian pressure is a black stain on its record.” The director general of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, said his organization never watered down its standards for political purposes. He also said Iran’s progress on allowing the installation of cameras at nuclear sites remained too slow.
There are reports Iran is about to receive about $24bn (£19bn) of currency shortly, including $7bn from South Korea, $10bn from Iraq and $6.7bn in special drawing rights. Those reports may be linked to the recent release of three Europeans held in Iranian jails, and mediation by Oman. Discussions about the release of US prisoners are continuing.
But the US ambassador to the IAEA, Laura Holgate, speaking to a quarterly board meeting of the nuclear watchdog, said: “Iran continues to expand its nuclear activities far beyond JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name for the Iran nuclear deal] limits. In particular, we have underscored that Iran’s production of uranium enriched up to 60% has no credible peaceful purpose. No other country in the world today utilizes uranium enriched to 60% for the purpose Iran claims.”
Israel’s economy minister, Nir Barkat, said his country would “never, never allow” Iran to have nuclear weapons. “The Iranians should be deeply concerned, because if they come close to that threshold, they must realize that nobody in Iran should sleep well at night, because we will never allow that to happen. They should be really, really concerned.
“I remind our friends in America that we’re on the same line. We should all lay together and, naturally, it’s going to be easier for us in Israel to do it in collaboration with the rest of the free world, headed by the United States of America. This is my expectation, and I hope that Iran will understand, sooner rather than later, not to mess around with us.”
A reworked nuclear deal will be seen as a betrayal by the exiled Iranian opposition that continues to fight to protect the rights of political prisoners in Iran. It would also anger Ukraine, which says its cities have been bombarded by Iranian-made drones.
Patrick Wintour is diplomatic editor for The Guardian
Iran has a hypersonic missile – what does that mean ?
Al-Jazeera / June 7, 2023
Iran has dismissed skepticism over its development of hypersonic missiles, which could reach Israel in seven minutes.
Tehran, Iran – Iran has unveiled Fattah, a hypersonic ballistic missile it says is capable of breaching defence systems, which could cause further concerns for the West and Israel.
So, what are hypersonic missiles, who has them, what is the Iranian version capable of, and what’s the context of their unveiling?
What are hypersonic missiles ?
Hypersonic missiles are projectiles that can move at a speed of at least Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. That is 1.7km (1.05 miles) per second or 6,174km (3,836 miles) per hour.
Some ballistic missiles already reach these speeds, but this new class of weapon separates itself from the pack as it can take a more random path to its intended target after plunging back into the earth’s atmosphere.
This makes it far more difficult to be detected by radar systems and to be destroyed by defence shields.
More countries are pursuing hypersonic weaponry in hopes they will provide them with a military edge, but the challenges remain formidable.
For one, friction from the upper atmosphere produces extremely high temperatures, while the intense speed of the missile produces superheated particles surrounding it that make it harder for radio communications to get through.
So far, Russia and China have displayed an array of hypersonic weapons, with Moscow being the only one thought to have tested them in combat. The United States has also tested hypersonic missiles but lags slightly behind its two rivals.
What does the Iranian missile look like ?
Several months after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) first announced in November that it had a hypersonic missile, the Fattah was displayed on Tuesday.
Iran says the projectile has a range of 1,400km (870 miles) and can move at a massive speed of up to Mach 15 (5.1 km or 3.2 miles per second) before hitting its target.
It is also said to feature a moveable secondary nozzle and employ solid propellants that allow for high manoeuvrability within and outside the atmosphere, which top IRGC commanders have claimed means no missile defence system in the world is a match for it.
Iranian authorities have also praised a “generational leap” in missile technology on the back of the Fattah, which they have said will give Iran new levels of deterrence.
They have dismissed Western skepticism of Iran’s development of hypersonic missiles, saying the truth will be revealed “on the day” such arms may be used, and that the US is only skeptical as the technology undermines its efforts to sell arms to the region.
Should Israel and the West be concerned ?
Iran has refrained from directly threatening its arch foe Israel in unveiling its latest missile, as it had with some of its previous ones, but the signs are there.
Fattah’s current range is just short of the distance between Tehran and Tel Aviv, but IRGC aerospace chief commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh suggested on Tuesday that the elite force could look to hypersonics with a range of 2,000km (1,242 miles) in the near future.
That is a cap Iran has self-maintained for its expanding range of missiles to assuage Western, and particularly European, concerns about the reach of its projectiles.
At the claimed speeds, Fattah could theoretically reach Israeli targets in under seven minutes. That will leave little room for detection and interception, even for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.
When covering news of the missile’s unveiling, Israeli media widely focused on a previous threat by Iranian media that an Iranian hypersonic projectile could reach Israel in 400 seconds.
Washington, for its part, did not directly comment on the hypersonic missile, but National Security Council official John Kirby said the Biden administration “has been very … firm on pushing back on Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, to include the development of an improving ballistic missile program”.
The US also introduced a new round of sanctions on Tehran after the unveiling, including sanctions around its ballistic missile program.
What’s the context ?
Iran joins the limited ranks of countries with hypersonic weaponry at a time of significant political and military developments.
The country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers remains in limbo, but still alive, and the United Nations resolution underpinning it is set to lift some restrictions on the development of ballistic missiles in October.
Western powers continue to express concern over a growing military alliance between Tehran and Moscow.
Iran has been accused of supplying Russia with attack drones for its war in Ukraine, something it has denied. There have also been reports that Russia is looking to purchase Iranian missiles, but no such deal has been said to have been finalized.
But Iran has said it is looking to purchase advanced Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.
Meanwhile in the region, a China-brokered rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia has opened the way for a flurry of diplomatic activity. Tehran officially reopened its embassy in Riyadh on Tuesday, and the kingdom is expected to follow suit shortly.
Speaking during Fattah’s unveiling on Tuesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi sought to reassure neighbours of Tehran’s intentions, saying the missile marks a “point of sustainable peace and security” for the region.
Maziar Motamedi is a Tehran-based journalist who covers Iran