July 16, 2013:
Iran recently announced that it had improved the guidance system of its Khalij Fars anti-ship missile, enabling the missile to hit within 10-15 meters (31-36 feet) of its intended target, rather than 30 meters. Khalij Fars uses inertial or GPS guidance to get to the vicinity of its target, then switches to an optical system that looks for shapes indicating warships it is designed to attack and heads for the largest one. Iran says it has tested Khalij Fars twice and that each test was a success. Exactly how successful is unclear. Two tests were monitored by Western forces, but it is not certain that this complex guidance system actually worked. The Iranians have a tendency to announce impressive new weapons that then are never actually seen in service. This is done to improve Iranian morale, not accurately report what they have actually created.
It was two years ago that Iran announced it had developed an anti-ship ballistic missile with a range of 300 kilometers. This was the Khalij Fars and it was said to have been developed from the earlier Fateh 110 ballistic missile. But this is where this announcement gets strange.
The Fateh 110 is a copy of the Chinese DF-11A ballistic missile, which had a range of 400 kilometers. The Fateh 110 is an 8.86 meter (27.5 foot), 3.5 ton rocket with a half-ton warhead. Range is about 250 kilometers. The Fateh 110 is a solid fuel missile developed to replace the liquid fueled SCUD ballistic missiles Iran had been using since the 1980s. SCUD was developed from the German World War II era V-2 and still comprises a large part of the Iranian missile arsenal.
What all this implies is that Iran is claiming to have developed a ballistic missile that can hit moving ships at sea. That is a very difficult thing to do. China has also claimed to have developed this technology (the DF-21D). The Chinese DF-21D has apparently been successfully (but not convincingly) tested. Both the Chinese and Iranian weapons are primarily intended for American carriers. The U.S. Navy says it has countermeasures and, off the record, doubts that either the Chinese or Iranian “carrier killers” will work under combat conditions.