Threat-focused Iran launches "biggest ever" air drills

DUBAI Mon Nov 12, 2012 11:24am EST

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran launched military drills across half the country on Monday, warning it would act against aggressors less than a week after Washington accused Iranian warplanes of firing on a U.S. drone.

The manoeuvres take place this week across 850,000 square kilometres (330,000 square miles) of Iran's northeast, east, and southeast regions, Iranian media reported.

About 8,000 elite and regular army troops will participate, backed by bombers and fighter planes, while missile, artillery and surveillance systems will be tested, they said.

Played out against a backdrop of high tension between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, the "Velayat-4" manoeuvres will involve the biggest air drills the country has ever held, Iran's English-language Press TV said.

Western experts have challenged some of Iran's military assertions, saying it often exaggerates its capabilities.

"These drills convey a message of peace and security to regional countries," Shahrokh Shahram, spokesman for the exercises, told Press TV on Monday. "At the same time they send out a strong warning to those threatening Iran."

Last week, the U.S. Pentagon said Iranian planes opened fire on an unarmed U.S. drone over international waters on November 1. Iran said it had repelled "an enemy's unmanned aircraft" violating its airspace.

Senior researcher Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said an international arms embargo imposed against Iran meant the country was using outdated military equipment, including aircraft.

"The U.N. embargo on supplies of most types of major weapons to Iran is blocking Iranian military modernisation," he said. "Iran is more and more falling behind in military terms."

But London-based defense analyst Paul Beaver said Iran's military should not be underestimated, describing it as "a pretty impressive organization".

"They are busy out there modifying, adapting, doing things to their technologies. They have made the most of what they have," he said.

Western powers have imposed sanctions on Iran's oil trade to press it to halt nuclear work they fear is aimed at developing the capability to build nuclear bombs. Iran denies the charge, saying its atomic activities are purely for peaceful purposes.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.

FORWARD PLANNING

Although the Iranian air drills come just days after the Pentagon's announcement, the exercises appear to have been planned well in advance.

In September Farzad Esmaili, commander of the army's air defense force, said Iran was planning a large-scale air drill in coming months.

Various radar and other fixed, tactical and airborne surveillance systems would participate, Esmaili told state news agency IRNA on Thursday. The exercise will also test bombers, refueling planes and unmanned aircraft, Esmaili said.

Iranian media said on Monday that F-4, F-5, F-7, and F-14 fighters would take part.

Shahram told IRNA the drills would also focus on improving coordination between Iran's military and the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Sunday, Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Iran believed the U.S. drone was gathering intelligence on oil tankers off its shores.

Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards' top commander, said his forces had acted well in repelling the drone. "If such intrusions take place in the future, we will protect our airspace," Jafari said on Sunday, according to Press TV.

Iranian officials have threatened to strike U.S. military bases in the region and target Israel if the country is attacked.

Iran has carried out a number of military simulations this year, including the "Great Prophet 7" missile exercises in July.

(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Pravin Char)

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Comments (26)
Has the US ever invaded a country with an airforce??

They only seem to bomb 3rd world poor countries… I wonder how they will go actually being attacked themselves for once!

Iran should really be practicing these drill at night, the US only launches their invasions in the middle of the night because they are cowards.

Iran should expect a few thousand missiles and stealth bombers first as the Us would try to wipe out all of Irans defenses before they set a single foot on the ground.

Iran will need to strike the source of these missiles (warships) and the bases and runways where US jets take off and resupply from.

If Iran can wipe out a lot of US airpower and missile power the US will probably turn and run because it would be a fair fight, or they might nuke Iranian cities like cowards. It would be anyones guess at this stage because the US hasn’t fought an enemy that could fight back since the 40s… and they nuked them!

Nov 12, 2012 2:21am EST  --  Report as abuse
Numb3rTech wrote:
IRAN will lose, period. Nukes do not need to be used.

Why do these countries always want to fight? Why not just try to be human and get along? It would bring prosperity to a lot of countries. Why kill in the name of religion? Is there not a higher power all people believe in, but call our higher power by different names?

The main problem is if a war is started, it will involve multiple nations. It will not just be the U.S. and Iran. It could involve almost every nation depending upon how it starts and escalates.

I pray for peace and understanding of all people for a decent life without fear or war. This is my opinion.

Nov 12, 2012 4:38am EST  --  Report as abuse
drxym wrote:
I think Iran has just the right amount of theocratic crazy and military strength that if the US or Israel did hit them that they could inflict some damage back. I think they’d still lose in the end but it wouldn’t be the sort of point and click war that looks good in the news. A lot of people on both sides would die.

Of course Iran is so provocative that it only has itself to blame if it happens. What is there to gain by being so belligerent? This might explain why US is leaning on their economy with sanctions as much as possible. If the economy collapses and people can’t even afford to feed themselves they might be up for a spot of regime change, or at least vote in some moderate politicians when the chance arises.

Nov 12, 2012 5:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
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