Iran proclaimed itself the fourth country in the world to boast hypersonic missiles in its arsental on June 6, when it showcased the Fattah, meaning “Conqueror” in Farsi.
The Fattah, said Tehran, has an 870-mile (1,400-kilometre) range and could hit Israel within 400 seconds.
The announcement of the missile was soon followed by a move by the US to impose sanctions on more than a dozen people and entities in China, Hong Kong and Iran, including Iran's defence attache in Beijing, in relation to accusations that they helped procure parts and technology for key actors in Iran's ballistic missile development programme. A statement from the US Treasury accused Iran's defence attache in Beijing, Davoud Damghani, of coordinating military-related procurements from China for Iranian end-users, including subsidiaries of Iran's Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).
Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, attended the unveiling of the missile, which the Iranians claim can travel at up to 15 times the speed of sound and bypass air defence systems.
Hypersonic missiles can fly at least at Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound.
It is said to be possible to manoeuvre the Fattah in and out of the atmosphere. “It can bypass the most advanced anti-ballistic missile systems of the US and the Zionist regime, including Israel’s Iron Dome,” Iran’s state TV said.
Raisi asserted in the broadcast that the missile was a deterrent that would be “a point of security and stable peace” for the region.
“This missile power means that the region will be safe from evildoers and foreign aggression,” he said. “So its message to the people of the region is a message of security, and its message to those who are thinking of attacking Iran is that the Islamic Republic is a powerful country and its power aims to support the people of Iran and the oppressed people of the world.”
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the aerospace force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), described the Fattah “a missile that is unique in the world”.
However, Iran has not detailed any actual launch of the missile. Hajizadeh simply referred to a ground test of the missile’s engine. A rocket motor was put on a stand and fired to check its performance range. Iran has in the past faced claims of exaggeration in its missile technology claims.
Ukraine’s air force claimed in May to have shot down a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile with US Patriot air defences.
Israel and the US keep a watchful eye on both Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its space rocket programme, with the latter testing dual-use technologies they say can be utilised by the former. The fear is that Iran will develop missiles capable of taking nuclear payloads, though Tehran has always insisted it has never had the ambition to develop a nuclear bomb and is only pursuing the development of civil nuclear projects.
Laura Holgate, the US ambassador to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaking to the latest quarterly board meeting of body, said: “Iran continues to expand its nuclear activities far beyond JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name for the Iran nuclear deal] limits. In particular, we have underscored that Iran’s production of uranium enriched up to 60% has no credible peaceful purpose. No other country in the world today utilises uranium enriched to 60% for the purpose Iran claims.”
Israel’s economy minister, Nir Barkat, was on June 6 quoted by the Guardian as saying his country would “never, never allow” Iran to have nuclear weapons. “The Iranians should be deeply concerned, because if they come close to that threshold, they must realise that nobody in Iran should sleep well at night, because we will never allow that to happen. They should be really, really concerned.
“I remind our friends in America that we’re on the same line. We should all lay together and, naturally, it’s going to be easier for us in Israel to do it in collaboration with the rest of the free world, headed by the United States of America. This is my expectation, and I hope that Iran will understand, sooner rather than later, not to mess around with us.”