POSTED: 6:06 a.m. HST, Sep 28, 2011
TEHRAN, Iran >> Iran said today it has begun large-scale production of a domestically developed cruise missile designed for sea-based targets and capable of destroying warships.
Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said an unspecified number of the missiles, called "Ghader," Farsi for "Capable," were delivered to the Iranian military and the powerful Revolutionary Guard's naval division, which is assigned to protect Iran's sea borders.
Vahidi said the missile, which has a range of 124 miles, can travel at low altitudes and "can sink giant warships." The comments appeared to suggest that the new missile could potentially counter the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.
The West is already concerned about Iran's military capabilities, especially the implications of the country's disputed nuclear program. The U.S. and some of its allies, and as the U.N. nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, fear that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the charges.
Iran's growing arsenal includes short and medium range ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting targets in the region such as Israel and U.S. military bases in the Gulf.
Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.
Iran began a military self-sufficiency program in 1992, under which it produces a large range of weapons, including tanks, missiles, jet fighters, unmanned drone aircraft and torpedoes.