June 17, 1997
Manama.--Iran has successfully tested an air-launched cruise missile, a development that officials say marks a dramatic upgrade in its threat to American warships controlling the Persian Gulf.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen made today's surprise announcement at a news conference in Bahrain, where he was visiting as part of a goodwill tour of Gulf states. Later, a senior military official told reporters aboard Cohen's Air Force jet that the tests mean American warships will now have much less warning of an Iranian attack. The military official said U.S. ships now have seconds, instead of minutes, to respond to missile attacks.
The official, speaking on background, said Iran tested a dummy missile on June 3 and a live weapon on June 6. He would not detail what kind of warhead was used when an aging F-4 jet fired on a barge in the Gulf, saying only that it was `a significant missile .'
He said the Chinese-made weapons have a range of greater than 20 miles, bolstering Iran's claim that it could shut down, or significantly limit, sea traffic in the strategically critical Persian Gulf.
Some 50% of the world's oil supply passes through Gulf waters every year.
In his toughest talk against Iran thus far on his tour of Gulf nations, Cohen told a news conference: `Iran's words and actions suggest that it wants to intimidate its neighbors and commerce in the Gulf.' But he said he had been briefed by Navy officials and, `we are convinced and we have no doubt that we have the capability to defeat any weapons system that the Iranians might possess.'
With the successful test of the C801K missile , Iran now has the ability to fire from the land, sea and air.