TEHRAN, March 3 (UPI) -- With defense and acrimony building in the Persian Gulf, Iran announced plans to test a new laser-guided bomb.
Iran's Fars News Agency reported that a prototype of the 2,000-pound smart bomb would be tested "in the near future," the country's air force commander Brig. Gen Hassan Shahsafi said.
He said the smart bomb, dubbed Qassed-2, had a longer range and better vision than its earlier version, the Qassed-1. That weapon made its debut four years ago and has since then been in mass production. Qassed is interpreted as "messenger."
It was not immediately clear how advanced the prototype is and whether it would be available for mass production.
Western military experts seemed skeptical of the announcement, saying the Islamic Republic had a history of declaring military advancements prematurely as a means of saber-rattling.
Others speculated that "the announcement of the Qassed-2 is a move of brinkmanship to discourage the Gulf emirate states of Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates from participating in the expansion of the United States' Patriot missile defense system," the Threat Matrix reported.
With Washington concerned about Iran's nuclear intentions, the United States opted last month to revamp its defensive stance in the Middle East and deter a possible attack from Iran by moving to deploy anti-missile shields in the Gulf region.
Shahsafi opted to downplay the move this week, saying it was nothing more than Washington's status quo.
"That is not a new development," he told the Fars News Agency. "They had previously deployed and tested the systems in other places and gained no (positive) results."
Experts said that even if the new smart bomb is superior to the Qassed-1, Tehran would need to overcome its problem of installing the new technology on reliable aircraft. That need may precipitate the procurement of fresh jets.
In recent weeks, however, Iran has announced a rash of technological advances and military achievements.
Last month, Tehran opened two production lines for the construction of unmanned aerial vehicles, supposedly capable of carrying out assaults with high precision. This followed announced plans to create a missile air defense system that the Iranians said is more powerful than the Russian S-300 system it has ordered from Russia but not yet received.
It was not clear what purpose the drones would serve. But the drone production announcement came as the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stoked tensions with the West, ordering scientists to enrich stockpiles of uranium to the higher level needed to produce nuclear power.