TEHRAN — Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Thursday that the country’s Revolutionary Guard successfully tested another ballistic missile, while boasting that Iran’s efforts to build a “better” home-made version of the Russian S-300 missile defense system were well on their way.
The Fars report quoted Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard’s airspace division, as saying the missile destroyed a target from a distance of 250 kilometers (155 miles). The report said the sea-launched ballistic missile dubbed Hormoz 2 was tested last week, providing no additional details.
Fars also quoted Major General Ataollah Salehi saying that Iran was “capable of building our needed equipment and we have built and are building a system better than the S-300.”
The operational readiness of the system, dubbed as Bavar (Belief) 373, will be tested in late May, according to the report.
Last week, Iran announced that the advanced S-300 air defense system, delivered by Russia following the July 2015 nuclear deal after years of delay, was now operational.
“The S-300 is a system that is deadly for our enemies and which makes our skies more secure,” said air defense commander General Farzad Esmaili, according to state TV, also noting that the domestically manufactured Bavar 373 which was “more advanced than the S-300” would be tested soon.
Iran had been trying to acquire the S-300 system for years to ward off repeated threats by Israel to bomb its nuclear facilities, but Russia had held off delivery in line with UN sanctions imposed over the nuclear program.
The Russian-made missile defense system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both aircraft and missiles.
Israel had long sought to block the sale, which analysts say could impede a potential Israeli strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. Other officials have expressed concern that the systems could reach Syria and Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s regional air supremacy.
Iran’s activation of the defense system and recent ballistic tests come amid mounting tensions with the new US administration of President Donald Trump, who imposed sanctions after Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile in January.
Defiantly, Iran has continued with the tests, firing a pair of ballistic missiles late last month and carrying out drills that the US and Israel maintain are banned by the UN.
According to US officials who spoke with Fox News on February 27, Iran had fired two short-range Fateh-110 missiles in successive tests over the previous weekend, outfitting them with a guiding system meant to target boats.
One of the two Fateh-110 short range ballistic missiles tested successfully struck a barge floating in the Persian Gulf some 155 miles from the launch site at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps base at Bandar-e-Jask in southeastern Iran.
Although the other missile did not hit its intended target, it was said to have been “in the vicinity.”
One of the officials who spoke with Fox said that the Fateh-110 Mod 3 missiles that were launched were equipped with an “active seeker,” which allows for improved targeting of seaborne vessels.
The missiles have a range of about 250 kilometers (155 miles), meaning they could not reach Israel from Iran. However, Syria and Hezbollah are thought to posses the missiles or modified versions of them. Iran has also hinted that it may have given technology to build the missiles to the Hamas terror group in Gaza as well.
Israel has also raised concerns in recent years of missile strikes on offshore gas facilities being set up in the Mediterranean.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump held a phone conversation to discuss “Iranian aggression” in the region and the 2015 nuclear deal, which the prime minister has vehemently opposed and which the president has repeatedly attacked.
The two leaders talked “at length” about the “dangers emanating from Iran and Iranian aggression in the region and the need to work together to deal with these threats,” according to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday.
Meanwhile, the US Navy has a large presence in the Persian Gulf, where its Fifth Fleet is headquartered, and Iran has threatened on numerous occasions to attack US ships operating in the area.
Earlier this week a US vessel in the Strait of Hormuz was forced to change course after being harassed by Iranian fast boats in the strategic waterway.
The harassed boat — the USNS Invincible — is a tracking ship, designed to track ballistic missile launches. It was not immediately clear if the ship was purposefully targeted by the IRGC vessels in connection to the ballistic missile tests.
After Iran test-fired a ballistic missile in January, the US imposed sanctions on a number of entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, and Trump warned the Islamic Republic it had been “put on notice.”
Although Iran maintains that the testing of ballistic missiles is not banned by the 2015 nuclear deal designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the US said that the sanctions were imposed for Iran’s violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2331, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”