ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 60

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Iran unveils improved hypersonic missile, claims it can evade air defense systems

Supreme Leader Khamenei on hand as Revolutionary Guard Corps displays Fattah II, which it says is equipped with advanced warhead and hypersonic glide vehicle

Iranian supreme leader Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, visits an exhibition of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace achievements, November 19, 2023. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Iranian supreme leader Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, visits an exhibition of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace achievements, November 19, 2023. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran unveiled on Sunday a newer version of what it claims is a hypersonic missile capable of maneuvering at high speeds to evade air defense systems.

The Fattah II missile was put on display at Ashura Aerospace Science and Technology University, a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Tehran. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited the site to review an exhibition of new weapons systems, among them the Fattah II.

The display came as Israel has recently intercepted a number of ballistic missiles fired at it by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Israel Defense Forces said the long-range Arrow air defense system had been used to shoot down some of the missiles.

Iran announced an earlier version of the Fattah — “Conqueror” in Persian — in June, saying at the time that it was capable of traveling at 15 times the speed of sound.

The Fattah II also reaches those speeds but is fitted with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), according to local media reports. The HGV detaches from the missile and then glides at hypersonic speed to its target while being able to make relatively sharp maneuvers to avoid ballistic missile defenses.

Iran did not release any video of the Fattah II being fired and media reports did not say if the new missile has an improved range over the 1,400 kilometers already cited for its earlier version.

That’s about mid-range for Iran’s expansive ballistic missile arsenal, which the IRGC has built up over the years as Western sanctions largely prevent it from accessing advanced weaponry.

That range, however, depends on how maneuverable the missile is. Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory in which anti-missile systems like the Arrow and Patriot can anticipate their path and intercept them. The more irregular the missile’s flight path, the more difficult it becomes to intercept, but the shorter its overall range.

In June, IRGC officials said they wanted to improve the Fattah’s range to 2,000 kilometers, putting Israel within its scope.

At the time, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant dismissed the missile as not posing a significant threat to Israel.

“I hear our enemies boasting about weapons they are developing. To any such development, we have an even better response — whether it be on land, in the air, or in the maritime arena, including both defensive and offensive means,” Gallant said during a visit to the military’s Northern Command, amid a major drill.

At Sunday’s exhibition, Khamenei also reviewed an Iranian drone named “Gaza” and declared that Israel had suffered a “defeat” in its war against the Iran-backed Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Israel began a ground operation in the Gaza Strip following three weeks of intense aerial campaigns across the Strip in response to Hamas’s shock October 7 invasion of southern Israeli communities. Under cover of thousands of rockets, thousands of terrorists from Gaza killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel, a majority of them civilians of all ages, in their homes and at an outdoor music festival near Kibbutz Re’im. The terrorists also kidnapped some 240 people to the enclave.

Iran, which seeks Israel’s demise and supports Hamas financially and militarily, has hailed the October 7 attacks as a “success” but denied any direct involvement.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims that 12,300 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war on October 7, including at least 4,700 children and 3,000 women. Those figures cannot be independently verified, and Hamas has been accused of inflating them and of designating gunmen in their late teens as children. It is not known how many among its total are combatants, and how many among the dead were victims of misfired rockets aimed at Israel.

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