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Iran claims a new ballistic missile can travel at hypersonic speeds

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei toured the Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force centre on Sunday where the Fattah-2 hypersonic ballistic missile was revealed to the public.

Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose crucial challenges to missile defence systems because of their speed and manoeuvrability. 

Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory in which anti-missile systems like the US Patriot system can anticipate their path and intercept them. The more irregular the missile’s flight path, the more difficult it becomes to intercept.

In June Iran unveiled the first Fattah missile system. At the time it claimed it can reach Mach 15 — which is 15 times the speed of sound.  

China is believed to be pursuing the weapons, as is the US. Russia claims to already be fielding the weapons and has said it used them on the battlefield in Ukraine. However, speed and manoeuvrability aren’t a guarantee the missile will successfully strike a target. Ukraine’s air force in May said it shot down a Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missile with a Patriot battery.

Gulf Arab countries allied with the US widely use the Patriot missile system in the region. Israel, Iran’s main rival in the Mideast, also has its own robust air defences.