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Iran unveils new ballistic missile after US deployment to Gulf

Iranian officials said they had already mass-produced the "radar-evading" missile, which relies on artificial intelligence and is capable of "completely destroying" any frigate.
ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

Iran's Defense Ministry said it had mass-produced the country's first long-range naval ballistic missile with a host of new combat features, designed to "completely destroy" enemy carriers, state media outlets reported on Tuesday. 

"We have employed artificial intelligence within the software of the naval missile's trajectory planning," Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani announced at a televised ceremony in Tehran.

The ceremony marked the delivery of dozens of the projectiles to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran's regular army, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

The missile is dubbed Abu Mahdi after Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraqi's Tehran-backed Popular Mobilization Units. Highly revered in Iran, al-Muhandis was killed along with Iran's top commander Qasem Soleimani when their convoy was hit by a US airstrike outside Baghdad's international airport in January 2020.

Iran's defense minister said the new missile could be launched from "entirely secret" locations deep inside Iranian territory to blow up enemy warships, frigates and carriers.

The delivery came in the wake of American reinforcements to the Persian Gulf in mid-July of F-35 warplanes and the USS Thomas Hudner destroyer vessel. The Pentagon has said the deployment is meant to tackle a recent wave of Iranian seizures of oil tankers and commercial ships in the strategic waters. 

Abu Mahdi is the latest in an array of ballistic missiles Iran has developed and publicly unveiled in the past decade, inattentive to pressure from the West and its regional Arab rivals. The Islamic Republic also insists that unlike its nuclear activities, the controversial missile program remains "a non-negotiable red line."

The new missile, according to state media outlets, dramatically expands the coverage area of the Iranian navy. It can be launched from both stationed and moving pads and its navigation system is capable of updating the final impact point in flight.

The projectile operates with an integrated navigation system and robust propulsion, making it capable of firing in quick succession, according to state media, which also claimed that Abu Mahdi can make warplanes stationed on aircraft carriers "useless."

Iranian commanders boasted specifically about the projectile's radar evasion, its ability to fly in low altitudes and stealth nature up until impact. Detailing that feature, IRGC-run Fars News said the undetectable missile will appear upon its targets like a "ghost."

The "unique" missile, as described by the Iranian defense minister, features a cruise range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).

Yet in an apparent message of defiance to Iran's adversaries, the IRGC's US-sanctioned naval commander, Rear. Adm. Alireza Tangsiri, promised at the Tehran ceremony that new versions with a doubled range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) are on the way.

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