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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

Wired November 18, 2010

Iran: Our Homebrew Missile is Double-Awesome (Take That, Ruskies!)

By Adam Rawnsley

Iran now has a very serious message for Russia and the world after the delivery of their much-desired air defense missile has been canceled: Nyeh, nyeh — we built our own and it’s totally awesome, we swear!

Iran recently announced that it has tested a “local” version of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system whose delivery Russia nixed back in September.

“We have developed the system by upgrading systems like S-200 and we have tested it successfully using all our potential and experience in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), the Army and the Defense Ministry,” Iranian Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian told the Islamic Republic’s state-funded PressTV late yesterday.

Years ago, Russia had agreed to sell the relatively advanced S-300 air defense missiles to Iran. But following repeated delays in their actual delivery, Russia canceled the sale in September because or pressure from and improved ties with the United States.

The announcement comes amidst a chest-thumping air defense exercise that Iran has been conducting this week around the country’s nuclear sites. The S-300’s longer range and improved engagement capability over Iran’s existing air defenses might have given the United States and Israel pause when considering an attack on Iran’s nuclear program. In August, when it became clear that Russia wasn’t going to make good on the sale, Iran announced it would build its own S-300 missiles — alongside some smack talk and ambiguous legal threats thrown at Russia.

But is it possible that Iran could have souped up an S-200 in such short order?

The two decade technological chasm between the roughly 50 year old S-200 and the 30 year old S-300 would be too much for a country with Iran’s capabilities to bridge on its own, says John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org.

“It might happen sometime after the Hidden Imam returns from Occulation but not much before then,” he tells Danger Room.

“The S-200 was designed to shoot down a big target that’s not maneuvering. The S-300 was designed to shoot down a small target that is maneuvering,” Pike says. “About the only thing these two have in common is the S.”

Iran has a history of making inflated claims about their weapons prowess. In an April 2010 military parade, Iran tried to fool the world into thinking it had the missiles by welding together a bunch of 55 gallon oil drums and strapping them to a truck. In 2008 it released snaps of what it claimed was a Shehab-3 missile launch that were later found to have been photoshopped to include extra missiles.

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