April 3, 2006

Iran test fires new torpedo in key Gulf oil nexus

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran test fired a new torpedo in the
Strait of Hormuz off its south coast, the world's main nexus
for shipping oil, state television reported on Monday.

Iran rarely gives enough details of its military hardware
for analysts to determine whether Tehran is making genuine
advances or simply producing defiant propaganda while pressure
ratchets up on its nuclear program.

Although Iran can draw on huge manpower, its naval and air
force technology is largely dismissed as outmoded.

"Revolutionary Guard naval forces a few minutes ago test
fired a powerful torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz. This torpedo
is capable of destroying enemy warships and submarines at any
depth and moving at any speed," state television said.

The test comes in the middle of Gulf wargames that started
on Friday. Iran earlier in the wargames said it had tested a
radar-evading missile and an underwater missile that can
outpace enemy warships.

The Pentagon said on Monday it is possible Iran has
produced missiles capable of evading radar and sonar as Tehran
has stated in recent days, but added that the Iranians have
been known to "boast and exaggerate."

Iran said in February last year that it had started a mass
production line of torpedoes.

The Islamic Republic has three elderly Kilo class
diesel-electric Russian submarines. These are capable of firing
homing torpedoes but military analysts say these vessels are
unsuited to modern naval combat.

Iran has also started building midget submarines, which it
says are capable of firing torpedoes.

Earlier in the day, Rear Admiral Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani
said Iran would have further important announcements to make
over the course of the wargames.

"We are going to have very important news that will make
our nation proud in the next few days," he told state

"We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve
their weapons systems by both foreign and indigenous measures.
It's possible that they are increasing their capability and
making strides in radar-absorbing materials and targeting,"
said Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman.

"However, the Iranians have been known also to boast and
exaggerate their statements about great technical and tactical
capabilities," Whitman added.

"Iran's military developments have centered on its
ballistic missile program, which Tehren views as its primary
deterrent. It has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles
in the Middle East," Whitman said. "Over the past year, Iran
has continued testing its medium-range ballistic missiles, and
has also tested anti-ship missiles," Whitman added.

Western nations have been watching developments in Iran's
ballistic missile capabilities with concern amid a standoff
over the Iranian nuclear program, which the West says is aimed
at building atomic bombs. Tehran says the program is only

The United States and Israel have consistently declined to
rule out military action against Iran if Tehran fails to
resolve the nuclear dispute through diplomatic means.