Tehran, Iran – Iran’s army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have launched a joint military exercise with a focus on air defence that they say will encompass half the country’s airspace.
The two-day drill, launched in Iran’s central desert area in the early hours of Tuesday, was led by the Khatam al-Anbia Air Defence Headquarters.
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As part of the exercise, which military commanders said aims to closely replicate war, manned and unmanned aerial vehicles and missiles were to be launched against ground targets in order to test the performance of air defence and radar systems.
State television broadcast footage that showed several missiles being launched from locally manufactured air defence systems.
Brigadier General Qader Rahimzadeh, commander-in-chief of the Khatam al-Anbia base, said the IRGC’s 3rd Khordad missile defence system and the army’s 15th Khordad system had been deployed as part of the exercise, in addition to other Iranian electronic and cyber warfare equipment.
Brigadier General Alireza Sabahifard, commander of the air defence force, said the first day of the exercise had been successful.
“The equipment we used today are all indigenous and on the cutting edge of modern technology,” he told state television.
It came a day after Iran unveiled Majid, a short-range air defence missile system it said could be linked with a locally manufactured radar system with a range of 30km (19 miles) and could hit targets in a range of eight km (five miles).
Rahimzadeh said on Tuesday that one of the goals of the drill was to demonstrate that Iranian armed forces can defend the “sensitive and vital centres” of the country.
Several major nuclear and military sites are located in the central parts of Iran, including the Natanz nuclear facilities in Isfahan – which were the target of two sabotage attacks since last year that Iran blamed on Israel.
Israel in recent months has repeatedly warned of Iran’s advancing nuclear programme. Last month, Chief of General Staff Aviv Kohavi said Israel has “greatly accelerated” its military plans to attack Iran in order to deal with its nuclear ambitions.
Iranian officials continue to maintain that the country will never seek a nuclear bomb.
The latest exercises come as both the Iranian army and the IRGC held drills and mobilised weaponry to the southwestern areas of the country bordering Azerbaijan.
Iran has said it is “concerned” about the purported presence of Israeli assets near its borders, in addition to “terrorist” forces brought in during Azerbaijan’s 44-day war with Armenia last year.
Last year and earlier this year, the Iranian army and the IRGC held a series of military exercises to demonstrate ground, air and naval capabilities amid tensions with the United States.
Talks in Austria’s capital, Vienna, aimed at restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, are expected to resume in the coming weeks.