Iran has announced it developed a long-range cruise missile that can target enemies in the region amid tensions with US and Israel.
The cruise missile – named “Paveh” – has a range of 1,650 kilometres and has been added to Iran’s military inventory, according to Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace force.
On Friday, the chief commander of the Guards made a statement implying that Iranian missiles can target US bases with pinpoint accuracy, without elaborating further.
Hajizadeh specifically mentioned US bases in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other places as vulnerable to Iranian attacks.
While regional experts confirm that Paveh is indeed capable of striking American assets in the region, they also highlight the deterrents the US has in its arsenals to neutralize such air-borne threats.
John Krzyzaniak, a researcher on Iran at Washington-based think tank Wisconsin Project, told TRT World that while military installations with air defence systems can probably shoot Paveh missiles down, undefended sites will always be at risk.
“Of course this was already the case, since Iran already has other cruise missiles and suicide drones that fill this role. Even the Paveh has probably been in service with the IRGC for several years, even though it was not publicized,” Krzyzaniak said.
“As best we can tell, Paveh is the next generation version of the Quds missile, which Iran transferred to the Houthis in Yemen several years ago. So I don’t think this changes the strategic situation really, regarding the US role or Israel.”
The missile Paveh, which has reportedly been operational, is dedicated to Iranian forces killed in the country’s northwestern region, according to Hajizadeh.
Footage released from Iranian media, shows the missile precisely hitting the target that is somewhat different from previous missiles. The new missile has folding wings.
Tehran says Iran’s program is purely defensive and aims to deter possible threats to its soil and assets.
Experts, however, say that even if claims about the Paveh missile are accurate, it won’t significantly impact the defence strategies of Israel or the United States.
They believe that the announcement made by the Islamic Republic is aimed at enhancing its public image and countering the negative perception of the government, both nationally and internationally, amid ongoing anti-government demonstrations in the country.
Dr Uzi Rubin, the founder and original director of Israel Defense Ministry’s Missile Defense Organization, explainsthat a ballistic missile functions as a rocket, launching vertically with a motor that eventually stops working. However, due to inertia, the missile continues to fly forward. In contrast, a cruise missile is more like a small aircraft, powered by a jet engine, and flies like a commercial aeroplane but without passengers.
He further said that Iran has previously declared to possess cruise missiles capable of covering longer distances.
“They have claimed already for more than 10 years that they have cruise missiles that can go 2,000 kilometres,” he said.
“It’s quite surprising that now they are saying that they have achieved the range of 1,650 km, 10 years after claiming that they have a range of 2,000 km. Apparently, their previous cruise missiles were not very successful.”
Revenge of Soleimani
Hajizadeh in his speech at state media underlined that Tehran did not intend to target “poor soldiers” in revenge for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) top general Qassem Soleimani’s assassination.
The US, with an order of then-president Donald Trump, in cooperation with Israel killed Soleimani in 2020 in a drone strike in the airport of Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
US and Israel consider IRGC as a foreign terrorist organisation and its members as legitimate targets.
The assassination sparked outrage in Iran and Tehran government swore vengeance against the US.
Tehran is backing armed forces in Syria and Iraq that often targets US military bases with drone and bomb attacks in these two fragile states.
“God willing, we are looking to kill Trump. [Former Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo, [former US general Kenneth] McKenzie and military commanders who issued the order should be killed,” Hajizadeh said.
Iran’s missile program
Tehran has poured its investments into the military to develop high-end arms and firepower, particularly in its missile program amidst its crippling economy by sanctions imposed by the US.
Iran has been disconnected from global digital bank transactions, selling its gas to other nations and many businesses by the US economic war as Washington aims to counter Tehran’s nuclear capability developments and military power in the region, a main threat to the US and its ally Israel’s interests.
But sanctions did not stop Iran to advance its nuclear capability and its military agenda.
Iran earlier unveiled that has developed missiles that can reach up to 2,000 kilometres and can reach out to target US military assets and Israel.
Last November, the US Department of Defense said it was sceptical of reports referring to Iranian officials that Tehran had developed a hypersonic ballistic missile.
But general Hajizadeh reiterated his statement that the new hypersonic missile flies at a speed of 9,207 kilometres per hour (Mach 12) and can target US warships in the region.
Separately, IRGC’s General Hossein Salami said on Saturday that the Islamic Republic is working on a supersonic cruise missile program that can track satellites with radars on the ground.
He also underlined that the reason for developing the new model of cruise missiles is because the traditional cruise missiles do not fly as fast as supersonics and their flights are at low altitudes.
Growing tensions in region
Tehran has sped up its domestic military tech in air, sea, land and electronic warfare capabilities.
Recently Iran has been accused of sending unmanned aerial vehicles of supporting Russia’s cause in the fight against Ukraine in northeastern Europe.
Tehran has denied such reports of employing drones, including Kamikaze UAVs to Russia, saying that it supports “peace and opposes war”.
Iran’s arch-rival Israel has long warned of Tehran’s developing military capabilities in the Middle East including the Mediterranean and Red Sea that can be used to advance its nuclear program.
In a separate action, Israel often targets Iran-backed militias in Syria and the Bashar Assad regime’s military forces including airports and air bases.
The new missile announcement came after Iran’s state television said Tehran is “likely” to help the Syrian regime to defend its airspace with surface-to-air missile systems against Israel’s airstrikes.
“Syria needs to rebuild its air defense network and requires precision bombs for its fighter planes,” according to state broadcaster.
United Nations permanent members and Germany inked a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 that will limit Tehran’s uranium enrichment progress in return for relaxing some sanctions imposed by the US-led bloc.
But Trump decided to pull out from the nuclear deal in 2018, accusing Iran of channelling money to its military presence in the region and keep enriching uranium that ultimately will lead to making a nuclear bomb.
His administration has advanced sanctions to crash Iran’s economy and military power.
The current US government is working with its European allies for a new agreement to stop Iran to be able to make a nuclear bomb.
Separately Israel and the US have carried out the largest military drills in the region dubbed Juniper Oak 2023, an apparent readiness against Iran.
The drill that carried in air, land and sea included a massive 6,400 US troops and 1,500 Israeli soldiers with over 140 aircraft, 12 naval vessels, and artillery systems.