Iran unveils underground base in response to US-Israel exercises

Iran’s army also announced a new air-fired missile that it said could penetrate enemy defences at long range.

A fighter jet is seen at the first underground air force base in Iran
A fighter jet at the underground air force base Eagle 44 at an undisclosed location in Iran [Iranian Army/WANA/Handout via Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s army has unveiled a major underground base to showcase its aerial military capabilities in response to significant joint exercises by the United States and Israel.

State television on Tuesday showed footage of a variety of fighter jets and military drones at the base, dubbed the “Eagle 44”, the location of which remains unknown.

It said the base is dug in the mountains to protect it from ammunition dropped from US strategic bombers that are capable of penetrating defences.

The unveiling, which was attended by top military officials, comes less than two weeks after the US and Israel held their largest-ever joint drill, using thousands of troops and dozens of aircraft in addition to naval vessels and artillery systems in what was widely seen as a message to Iran amid rising tensions.

That joint drill had in turn come days after Iran held wide-ranging exercises to showcase its military readiness.

“Maybe they hadn’t received Iran’s message [with that exercise] correctly. Iran is now sending a message again. This is the sound of rumbling from within the mountains,” the state television reporter said, as a fighter jet moved in a tunnel behind him.

State television showed footage of fighter jets taking off to conduct drill missions during day and night, adding that “the message of these operations is that now we are the absolute air power in the region”.

The Iranian army also unveiled a new missile called the Asef which was described as a long-range, air-fired cruise missile that is meant to be mounted on Iran’s Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24 jets and can penetrate enemy defences.

In recent months, there have been reports that Iran could soon take delivery of more advanced Su-35 jets from Russia as Tehran and Moscow rapidly expand their bilateral relations. Iranian military officials have expressed interest in the aircraft, but have not commented on when delivery could take place.

Abdolrahim Mousavi, the commander-in-chief of the Iranian army, told state television at the underground base that “our bases will soon host new fighter jets”, without elaborating.

“If our enemies, who are prone to wrong calculations, sometimes see some of these capabilities then it helps with ensuring more calm in the world and in the region,” Mousavi said.

Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iranian armed forces, added that if any country in the region is used by Israel to launch an attack on Iranian soil, “that originating point will also face heavy assault in addition to Israel”.

The state television report claimed the Iranian army has many other bases like Eagle 44 that are operational and can mount attacks while being capable of sustaining aircraft for months if necessary in addition to boasting electronic warfare abilities.

The Iranian army had previously unveiled an above-ground drone base while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has shown several of its underground drone and missile bases in messages to the US and Israel.

The latest shows of force also come days after a drone attack on an army facility in Isfahan, which Iran blamed on Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera