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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on June 6 that Israel had ways to counter the alleged hypersonic missile unveiled by Iran earlier that day. “I hear our enemies boasting about weapons they are developing. To any such development, we have an even better response,” Gallant said in a meeting with senior Israel Defense Forces officers during a training exercise.

The statement came after Iranian state television displayed what was claimed to be a guided hypersonic missile called “Fattah” or “Conqueror” in Farsi. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, and IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh made the presentation, with Hajizadeh boasting that “there exists no system that can rival or counter the missile.” The speed and inflight maneuverability of hypersonic missiles make them particularly difficult for missile defense systems to intercept.

Expert Analysis

“Prudence dictates caution when assessing Iran’s hypersonic claim. But it also dictates not dismissing Iran’s allegations entirely. For too long, conventional wisdom in Washington ignored the move toward precision in Iran’s shorter-range systems, only to wake up the hard way after Iran’s January 2020 missile barrage against the U.S. in Iraq. In this instance, Iran’s hypersonic claim is likely a composite of the fact that some of its ballistic missiles already re-enter the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds and that the warhead on the Fattah is likely a maneuvering one employing a smaller, secondary solid-rocket motor.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“Iranian claims regarding its military capabilities should be taken with a grain of salt, but there is no doubt that the regime is sprinting to strengthen what is already the most formidable missile arsenal in the region. This news underscores the urgent need to build a combined U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council security architecture focused on missile defense.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

Hajizadeh claimed its new ballistic missile — a development of the Fateh series of shorter-range solid-propellant ballistic missiles — could fly 13 to 15 times the speed of sound and has a range of 1,400 kilometers (870 miles). The missile has two stages powered by solid fuel, with the second stage’s thrust vectoring nozzles allowing it to maneuver mid-flight. Iranian media later carried partial footage of the launch inter-spliced with animation. According to the Associated Press, Hajizadeh claimed that Iran conducted a ground test of the missile’s motor.

Hypersonic Missile Development Race

The speed and maneuverability of hypersonic weapons being developed by U.S. adversaries pose significant challenges for currently fielded U.S. missile defense capabilities. A hypersonic ballistic missile travels at more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) and is equipped with a warhead called a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) capable of conducting significant maneuvers in flight. China and the United States are also developing hypersonic missiles, while Russia claims to have already deployed its “Zircon” hypersonic cruise missile.

Arsenal: Assessing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran Reveals Newest Long-Range Ballistic Missile,” FDD Flash Brief

Tools of Terror: Iran’s Growing Ballistic Missile Threat,” FDD Podcast Featuring Bradley Bowman, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) H.R. McMaster, and Behnam Ben Taleblu

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