Iran: Space monkey next step in rocket program

Baker, a South American squirrel monkey, poses on a model of the Jupiter vehicle in this undated picture with an added grey background.
AP Photo

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran says it plans to send a monkey into space next month as the next step in a space program that Western leaders worry could also bring major advances in Iran's missile arsenal.

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Iran unveils "ready" underground missile silos

The state-run news agency IRNA quotes the head of Iran's space agency as saying Monday that five monkeys are undergoing tests and one will be selected for the flight on a Kavoshgar-5 — or Explorer-5 — rocket.

Last year, Iran announced it had launched a rocket carrying a mouse, turtle and worms into space.

The U.S. and allies are concerned that the technology in the space program could also be used to develop long-range missiles with possible nuclear warheads. Iran denies it seeks nuclear arms and says it wants only energy-producing reactors.

Iran on Monday unveiled underground missile silos for the first time as it kicked off 10 days of large-scale war games, the country's latest show of military force amid a standoff with the West over its disputed nuclear program.

State TV broadcast footage of deep underground silos, claiming that medium- and long-range missiles stored in them are ready to launch in case of an attack on Iran. The sites are widely viewed as a strategic asset for Iran to launch a strike in the event of a U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.

Col. Asghar Qelichkhani, a spokesman for the war games, said the silos "function as a swift-reaction unit."

"Missiles, which are permanently in the vertical position, are ready to hit the pre-determined targets," he was quoted as saying by state TV.

An officer in Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, which is in charge of the missile program, said Tehran has constructed "numerous" underground missile silos which satellites can't detect. He did not elaborate.