TEHRAN: Iran on Thursday unveiled a new-generation ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) and equipped with a warhead weighing 1,500 kilogrammes (3,307 pounds).

The missile, called Kheibar, is the latest and upgraded version of the Khorramshahr ballistic missile, which was first unveiled in September 2017 and hailed as a breakthrough in Iran’s missile program.

The new missile, the fourth version of Khorramshahr, has been designed by the Iranian Defence Ministry’s aerospace organisation, according to Anadolu Agency citing state media.

It was unveiled in the presence of Iran’s Defence Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani a day after Iran marked the anniversary of the liberation of the border city of Khorramshahr, an important event during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.

Iran is believed to possess the largest and most diverse arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles in the Middle East region, which has often put it at loggerheads with the West.

The most prominent missiles in Iran’s arsenal include Emad, Fajr-3, Ashoora, Ghadr-110, Khorramshahr, Sejjil, and Shahab-3.

Kheibar is the latest version of the Khorramshahr missile and is equipped with one of the most advanced liquid fuel engines placed in a fuel tank that has reduced its size by 13 meters (43 feet) creating tactical capabilities.

The warhead of this missile, measuring about 4 meters (13 feet), is said to be one of the largest and capable of carrying more than one ton of munitions.

According to military experts, what distinguishes Kheibar from other missiles of previous generations is its precision in detecting targets and adjusting its trajectory in the mid-flight phase outside the earth’s atmosphere and deactivating its guidance system on entering the atmosphere to avoid being intercepted by air defenses.

Its bigger range, smaller size, greater precision, and advanced guidance and control system is what sets it apart from similar missiles in Iran and the region, say military experts.

The US and its allies have often raised concerns about Iran’s missile proliferation, and have imposed an array of sanctions targeting the country’s missile industry.

Iran insists that its missile programme is “peaceful” but “not negotiable” while sticking to the limit of 2,000 kilometres on its missiles in a bid to address Western concerns.

In February, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) chief Gen Hossein Salami said the country is planning to develop supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles.

His remarks followed the announcement that Iran has developed a new cruise missile, Paveh, with a range of 1,650 kilometres (1,025 miles), with top aerospace commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh issuing a veiled warning against Israel.

The new missile’s unveiling came two days after the top Israeli military general warned of “action” against Iran amid heightened tensions between the two arch-foes.

“Iran has advanced with uranium enrichment further than ever before ... There are negative developments on the horizon that could bring about (military) action,“ Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, chief of Israel’s armed forces, said at a conference. - Bernama