Iran's New Missile Flies Farther, Faster and Can Be Launched in Minutes

The Sajjil-2 flies farther, is faster and can be launched quickly.

Dec. 16, 2009— -- Iran tested an updated version of its most potent missile today, a weapon that Iran claims can fly farther and faster that previous models and that can be deployed more quickly.

The elements of speed and rate of deployment would make the Sajjil 2 missile more difficult for Western forces to detect and destroy before it is launched and harder to track and knock down once it is in the air.

The missile, which is Iran's most advanced two-stage surface-to-surface weapon, can reach targets up to 1,200 miles away. That puts Israel and American bases in the region, as well as parts of Europe, within its reach.

The announcement of today's launch comes as nuclear talks between Iran and the West are deadlocked and the U.S. and other Western countries are pressing for tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to rein in its nuclear program. The combination of political deadlock and growing missile capability is a combination that will likely heighten tensions.

The test firing of the Sajjil-2 was made public on Iranian state television. Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi vowed that the Sajjil-2 would be a "strong deterrent" against any possible foreign attack.

"Given its high speed, it is impossible to destroy the missile with anti-missile systems because of its radar-evading ability," Vahidi said on Iran TV.

Israel has refused to rule out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, and Iran has repeatedly warned that it will retaliate against any strike.

Western officials tell ABC News they do not view the test as a major technological leap forward, or significant in military terms. However, it does pose concerns because it is further evidence of Iranian efforts to extend the range and capability of its missiles. Most concerning to Western defense experts is the missile's increased range and speed of deployment.

The upgraded missile can reportedly be launched in a matter of minutes and is equipped with an improved guidance package. It is also powered entirely by solid fuel, which increases the weapon's accuracy. Earlier versions of the missile were powered by a combination of solid and liquid fuel.

White House Says Missile Launch Undermines Iran's Claim of Peaceful Intentions

A solid fuel rocket also allows the missile to be fueled ahead of time and hidden in a silo, while a liquid fuel rocket needs to be fueled on the launch pad, which takes much more time.

Azadeh Moaveni, an Iranian analyst and author, sees the test, in part, as meant for domestic consumption since the country has been torn by protests over what critics charge was a tainted presidential election. Those protests triggered a harsh crackdown by Iranian police, which has further angered dissidents, including some of Iran's ranking religious leaders.

"Iran is still in the midst of a serious political crisis," Moaveni said. "And the government is taking every opportunity to shift attention from political troubles at home to the threat from abroad."

The White House said the missile "undermine Iran's claims of peaceful intentions" of its nuclear program, White House spokesman Mike Hammer said.

"Such actions will increase the seriousness and resolve of the international community to hold Iran accountable for its continued defiance of its international obligations on its nuclear program," Hammer said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, "This is a matter of serious concern to the international community and it does make the case for us moving further on sanctions. We will treat this with the seriousness it deserves."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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