TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's navy said it test-fired a surface-to-surface cruise missile on Monday during a drill in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The missile, called Ghader, or Capable in Farsi, was described as an upgraded version of a missile that has been in service before. IRNA said the missile "successfully hit its intended target" during the drill.
An earlier version of the same cruise missile had a range of 124 miles (200 kilometers) and could travel at low altitudes. There were suggestions it could counter the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.
Iran's navy drill, which could bring its ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels that operate in the same area, is Iran's latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its nuclear program.
The 10-day exercise comes amid conflicting comments from Iranian officials over Tehran's intentions to close the Strait of Hormuz, and U.S. warnings against such an ominous move.
The latest version of the Ghader was delivered in September to the naval division of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which is assigned to protect sea borders. At the time, Tehran said the missile is capable of destroying warships.
"In comparison with the previous version, the highly advanced Ghader missile system has been upgraded in terms of its radar, satellite communications, precision in target destruction, as well as range and radar-evading mechanism," said Rear Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi, a spokesman for the drill.
State TV showed footage depicting the launch of a missile, which was fired high into the sky, and said it was capable of hitting targets "hundreds of kilometers (miles) away" from the point of origin. The broadcast said two more missiles, with a shorter range, were also tested on Monday.
The testing comes just a day after Iran's navy said it test-fired during the drill an advanced surface-to-air missile called Mehrab, or Altar in Farsi, which was described as medium-range.
The sea maneuvers cover a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the passageway for one-sixth of the world's oil supply, and parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
A leading Iranian lawmaker said Sunday the maneuvers serve as practice for closing the Strait of Hormuz if the West blocks Iran's oil sales. After top Iranian officials made the same threat a week ago, military commanders emphasized that Iran has no intention of blocking the waterway now.
Mousavi on Sunday also emphasized that Iran has no plan to choke the strait. "We won't disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. We are not after this," the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Mousavi said the drill was "tactical" and meant to show Iran was capable of assuming full control over the strait in case this became necessary.
The West fears Iran's program aims to develop atomic weapons — a charge Tehran denies, insisting it's for peaceful purposes only.
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