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Iran missile system tested, rhetoric sharpened on eve of NATO summit

Iran missile system: Iran tested a new air-defense system and lashed out at NATO as the military alliance prepared to meet this weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. Iran has long sought homegrown air defenses.

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“In terms of both of accuracy and distance, I would doubt very much whether Iran can produce anything nearing the ability of the S-300,” says Mark Fitzpatrick, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, who edited a dossier on Iranian missile capabilities published last May.

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“The S-300 is not just good because of its accuracy, but because of its reach,” says Mr. Fitzpatrick. “It’s not so easy to reverse-engineer a sophisticated system like this, particularly since Iran doesn’t have an S-300 to reverse-engineer.”

State TV showcases Mersad system

Iranian state television on Thursday showed a single Shahin missile being launched at an indeterminate target from a launch rack that normally carries three of the missiles. Officials said it was part of the Mersad (“Ambush” in Farsi) system.

“Mersad is completely built by Iranian experts,” PressTV correspondent Arash Khalatbari reported. “Experts here said that it is much more advanced than similar missiles in the same class – the Western missile systems in the same class.”

Previous phases of the drills were devoted to electronic warfare, where again Iran had demonstrated uncommon expertise, the correspondent said. “Managing electromagnetic waves, and hearing without being heard, and seeing without being seen, and destroying without being destroyed – that’s what they [the experts] said about it,” he reported.

Earlier PressTV reports of the exercises noted that spotters had been posted along border areas, and that six mock intrusions by enemy aircraft had been intercepted by scrambled Iranian jets.

One news story said the Iranian military had found “creative ways to make up for the shortcomings of radar systems.” Video images showed an array of basic radar antennae, and men in foxholes with binoculars, sometimes disguised with reeds like duck blinds, speaking on what appeared to be standard military radio sets.

“In the first stage, the soldier on post spots the plane,” the reporter announced. “In the second stage he communicates the location of the plane to the command post. And in the last stage, the plane is forced to land if it ignores the warnings.”

PressTV also reported that a “new kind of walkie-talkie” had been tested, along with an upgraded “ground-to-air shoulder-launched defensive missile.”

Iran’s bid for homemade air defenses goes back years. In June 2009, Iran began production of what the Iranian Defense minister called a “milestone in Iran’s anti-aircraft systems.” The Shahin [or “Hawk”] air-defense missile is believed by experts to have been reverse-engineered from the American-made Hawk, a missile with a 15-mile range sold to the pro-West Shah prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar claimed in mid-2009 that the Iranian version had a range of 25 miles, and was “capable of tracing and targeting enemy planes and helicopters intelligently and at supersonic speed.”

Iranian generals stated this week that the new system is also an upgrade of the longer-range Soviet-era S-200, which relies on 1960s technology and, according to one report, was sold to Iran in the 1980s.

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