Iran launched massive military “wargames” on Monday, involving thousands of troops, aircraft and surveillance equipment aimed at testing the country’s ability to repel an air attack against “hypothetical sensitive sites,” according to its state news agency.
The maneuvers seem to have been planned before Iranian jets reportedly fired on an unmanned U.S. drone earlier in November, and come on the heels of Austere Challenge 2012 in Israel, the largest ever missile defense exercise organized by Israel and the U.S. that began in October.
The Iranians call their surface-to-air system “Mersad,” or Ambush, says Gen. Farzad Esmaili, chief of the country’s air defense headquarters, according to Iranian state TV. It is modeled after the U.S. Hawk system, and reportedly can lock on to a flying object 50 miles away and hit it from 30 miles away.
“The Iranians are demonstrating to themselves and the world that their air defenses are at the highest state of readiness,” says Omar Lamrani, a military analyst with Stratfor.
“There’s a psychological propaganda aspect to that, but there’s also a real aspect to that,” he says. “These exercises also serve the crucial role of training their pilots and training their air defense forces.”
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