On Saturday, during celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran state television announced their military had successfully tested the new Hoveizeh surface-to-surface cruise missile. The missile, launched from a mobile launcher, has an effective range of 800 miles, putting Israel and U.S. troops stationed in the region within range.
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) February 2, 2019
Iranian television quoted Defense Minister Amir Hatami referring to the missile as the “long arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“The Hoveizeh missile is the symbol of self-belief and an important defense achievement based on today’s technological progress in the world,” Hatami said. “No obstacle can hinder the Iranian nation’s determination and will in the defense field… [Iran] will decisively respond to any kind of threat at the same level.”
Iran insists its missile development programmes are “purely defensive” and compliant with a 2015 resolution signed with major world powers requiring Iran to refrain from working on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for eight years. Iran has been challenged several times by claims their missile program is in violation of this agreement but the Iranian government claims their ballistic missiles are purely defensive and not designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Though Israel recently announced the successful testing of the Arrow III anti-missile system developed in cooperation with the U.S., the new system is designed to intercept exoatmospheric ballistic missiles. Cruise missiles fly at low altitudes, hugging the terrain. This allows them to approach the target underneath radar coverage, making them difficult to intercept.
Debka File, an English language Israeli military intelligence news site, described the effectiveness of this type of missile.
“Iran is confident that neither the United States nor Israel has the answer to this threat,” Debka wrote. “And indeed, say our military experts, no military force in the world has so far found an effective means of intercepting cruise missiles before they strike unless they are of short range.”
Iran has admitted to supplying both missiles and missile technology to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Jordan. Two weeks ago, a Fatteh 110 missile was intercepted after Iranian forces in Syria fired it at the Golan.
Fears increased that Iran’s missile program ran parallel to a nuclear weapons program last week after the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported 30 tons of yellowcake (uranium ore) was shipped from a production plant in the city of Ardakan in central Iran to a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. The shipment is permissible under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPAO), known as the nuclear deal with Iran, which allows Iran to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent. Nuclear weapons require uranium enriched to 90 percent.