Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Iran Launches Largest Air Force Exercise

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - Iran launched its largest air force exercise this past week.

The air exercise is part of an effort to introduce new indigenous platforms and systems and protect nuclear facilities. They said the five-day exercise, titled “Seal of the Prophets,” began last Sunday and would integrate operations by the regular air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

“The Iranian Air Force and IRGC will hold the largest air exercise in the history of the country,” Iranian Air Defense Commander Brig. Gen. Ahmed Miqani said Nov. 21.

Mr. Miqani told a news conference that Seal of the Prophets is taking place in central and western Iran and focus on air space protection and air defense. He said the exercise tested new systems, including air defense and electronic warfare. He said Iran has deployed air defense batteries around its nuclear facilities.

“The Air Defense Command is responsible for sensitive installations in the country, including nuclear facilities and will shoot down any plane that violates Iranian air space,” Mr. Miqani said. “This week’s air defense maneuvers will be held with the intention of protecting the country’s nuclear facilities.”

The exercise would also seek to enhance interoperability between fighter jets of the regular air force and IRGC. They said Seal of the Prophets would also test integration of operations by combat and reconnaissance platforms.

“Our unit will be in charge of the maneuver, but there will be units from IRGC and the Basij militia,” Mr. Miqani said.

Seal of the Prophet would contain three stages and envisioned an attack by an unnamed enemy, officials said. They said the exercise would test Russian-origin air defense systems, including the TOR-M1 and Pantsyr-S1.

Iran has been awaiting the longer-range S-300 system from Moscow. Mr. Miqani said Iran would test S-300 interceptors, but did not elaborate.

“In various maneuvers, new and modern missile networks will be used and evaluated, including the advanced S-300 missiles, for which production capability exists in Iran,” Mr. Miqani said.

IRGC has asserted that Iran reached the capability to defend against any Israeli air strike. IRGC Air Force Chief Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said the military has developed an air defense umbrella that combined surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and fighter jets.

“Be assured that in case of aggression, the Zionist F-15 and F-16s will be trapped by our air defense and destroyed,” Mr. Hajizadeh said. “And, if one of their aircraft manages to escape Iran’s air defense, the bases from which these aircraft took off will be struck by our destructive ground to ground missiles.”

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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