TEHRAN — Iran on Nov. 12 launched an air defense exercise a general said was aimed at optimizing its deterrent capabilities, as well as sending a “strong warning” to those threatening it with military strikes.
The start of the maneuvers, originally scheduled for early October but postponed without an official explanation, was announced on the website of the Revolutionary Guards, www.sepahnews.com.
The drill comes against a backdrop of growing tension in the Arabian Gulf but appears unconnected to an incident last week in which two Iranian fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. drone.
Some 8,000 troops drawn from the ranks of the Guards, the army and the Basij militia are participating in the drill, which will span four days and cover an area of 328,000 square miles in eastern Iran, according to media reports.
Various missile and artillery systems, as well as fighter jets and bombers, will be used in the exercise, they said.
The units will also test “fixed, mobile and tactical radar devices and tactical and airborne electronic surveillance systems,” according to Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili, head of the Guards’ air defense command.
Iran frequently conducts missile tests and maneuvers to underline its military muscle should it come under external threat.
Such exercises have multiplied in recent years amid growing tensions with the West and Israeli threats of possible airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
"For those who are thinking of aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the exercise should be seen as a strong warning," drill spokesman Brig. Gen. Shahrokh Shahram told Iran’s English-language Press TV. He did not elaborate.
The drone incident in the Arabian Gulf occurred Nov. 1, made public by the Pentagon a week later, heightening tension between Iran and the U.S. amid a mounting crisis over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iran said the unarmed Predator drone had entered its airspace and that its jets fired warning shots.
The Pentagon denied the drone had entered Iranian airspace and warned of a stronger response, should there be a repeat of such an incident.