"This is an extremely serious threat to Israel," Yair Shamir, chairman of Israel's Aerospace Industries warned in a lecture, naming the new weapon as the KH-55 cruise missile, based on a model Tehran received from Ukraine in 2006 and upgraded – together with an air-launched version.
"The pace of missile development (in Iran) is much faster than that of the solutions," Shamir said. "The new element is that Iran is already in space" – an intimation that its activities in space were a key element in accelerating Tehran's missile program.
Shamir rarely talks in public on security matters. debkafile's military sources report he apparently found it necessary to speak out in view of the defense minister Ehud Barak's soothing assessments, his efforts to downplay the peril from Tehran and denials that Iran had become an existential threat to Israel.
The defense minister was also challenged by President Shimon Peres who, speaking in Moscow Monday, May 11, cautioned against nonchalance in the face of the threats to destroy Israel, which came mainly from Tehran.
(He also noted that no ruler but Syria's Bashar Assad would try to pretend that missiles for Hizballah were harbingers of peace.)
debkafile's military sources note that Shamir's was the first authoritative voice to verify Iran's possession of a nuclear-capable, long-range-missile capable of striking Israel without leaving its own airspace. The rumors of its acquisition circulating for some years had been treated with some skepticism. Now, Western sources confirm that Ukraine did indeed sell Iran a dozen KH-55 missiles capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, but they are not sure if the warheads were part of the consignment or just the diagrams and instructions on how to fit them.
The Israeli aerospace expert disclosed that Iranian scientists are working on lengthening the cruise missile's range beyond its regular 2.500 kilometers and developing a version for the use of fighter bombers. This would enable Iranian warplanes to shoot missiles against targets not only in Israel but as far away as Central Europe, without leaving their own airspace and risking exposure to American or Israeli air attack.