The UN nuclear watchdog expressed concern on Thursday after Iran claimed to have created a hypersonic “super missile” that could breach any nation’s defenses.
“All these announcements increase the attention, increase the concerns, increase the public attention to the Iranian nuclear program,” said Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Similar to conventional ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles can carry nuclear weapons, but because of their high maneuverability and ability to travel at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, they are impossible to track and counter.
Hypersonic missiles can travel faster to their targets because they fly on a low trajectory in the atmosphere, in contrast to ballistic missiles.
According to Gen. Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the IRG’s aerospace division, Iran’s new hypersonic missile “was developed to counter air defense shields,” on Thursday. It would take decades for a system that could intercept it to be constructed, according to Hajizadeh, and “it will be able to breach all the anti-missile defense systems.”
The general’s evaluation is widely regarded as being accurate by weapons analysts. Many nations have created defenses against cruise and ballistic missiles, but it is still difficult to locate and shoot down a hypersonic missile.
The notion that Iran has created such a missile begs the question of where Tehran acquired the knowledge. Concerns over the race to acquire the technology, which is presently dominated by Russia, China, and the US, were raised by North Korea’s test of a hypersonic missile last year.
Since both Iran and Russia are the targets of severe international sanctions, they have increased cooperation in crucial areas to support their economies.
Iran’s assertion about its hypersonic missile comes after a successful test launch of a satellite-launching rocket last week. The US has frequently expressed worry that these launches could advance Iran’s ballistic missile technology, perhaps leading to the delivery of nuclear warheads. Sanctions were put in place by the US government in March against Iran’s missile-related activities.
In the meantime, the UN nuclear watchdog reported on Thursday that there had been “no progress” in talks with Tehran regarding unreported uranium particles discovered at three research facilities. Iran has agreed to allow agency inspectors to visit this month to ask questions.
“The agency has reiterated to Iran that at this meeting it expects to start receiving from Iran technically credible explanations on these issues, including access to locations and material, as well as the taking of samples as appropriate,” the agency said in a report on Thursday.