Iran has just built a hypersonic weapon that can fly five times the speed of sound, move in and out of the atmosphere and strike advanced anti-missile systems

Iran claims to have developed a hypersonic missile that is unstoppable by all current anti-air defences. General Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC’s aerospace unit, said Thursday that Tehran now possesses a ballistic missile that moves at ‘high speed and can manoeuvre in and out of the atmosphere’ – making it harder to shoot down. General Hajizadeh said the missile is designed to target enemy anti-air systems and is a ‘generational leap’ forward in terms of Tehran’s military technology.

Until now, only Russia was known to possess hypersonic technology. China is thought to have tested a similar weapon last year, while the US is also in testing.

North Korea has shown off what appear to be hypersonic missiles at military parades but it is unclear if the technology is functional. Iran had not publicly acknowledged working on such a weapon before now.

The missiles do this either using ‘scramjet’ technology, which boosts them within the atmosphere to faster than the speed of sound, or by exiting the atmosphere and then skimming on top of it – which also boosts their speed. In Russia’s case, these weapons are Kinzhal missiles fired from its jets and Avangard ‘glide vehicles’ which Moscow says are fitted to its new Sarmat nukes.

China is thought to have tested its own ‘glide vehicle’ this time last year and North Korea has shown off what appear to be ‘glide vehicles’ at its parades, though it is unclear if they actually work. America is known to have tested both scramjets and glide vehicle technology, but has not publicly acknowledged building a weapon using the tech.

Russia has used Kinzhal missiles in Ukraine, but glide vehicle technology is as-yet untested in combat. ‘This hypersonic ballistic missile was developed to counter air defence shields,’ Hajizadeh said, quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency.

‘It will be able to breach all the systems of anti-missile defence,’ said the general, adding that he believed it would take decades before a system capable of intercepting it is developed. ‘This missile, which targets enemy anti-missile systems, represents a great generational leap in the field of missiles.’

The announcement comes after Iran admitted on Saturday that it had sent drones to Russia, but said it had done so before the Ukraine war. The Washington Post reported on October 16 that Iran was preparing to ship missiles to Russia, but Tehran rejected the report as ‘completely false’.

It also comes at a time of protests that have rocked Iran since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest for allegedly flouting the Islamic republic’s dress code for women.

Both Iran and Russia are targeted by stringent sanctions – Iran after the US unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal, and Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. The two countries have responded to the sanctions by boosting cooperation in key areas to help prop up their economies.

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