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Iran's largest air exercise ever geared to defense

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

NICOSIA Iran has launched its largest air combat exercise ever.

Officials said the exercise, which began on Sept. 15, was the largest by the Iranian Air Force and included air defense batteries supplied this year by Russia.

"This is the first time that the air force managed to launch such large-scale exercises with all defensive capabilities throughout the country," Iranian Air Force Brig. Gen. Ahmad Mighani said.

Mighani, commander of the Khatam Anbia air base, said the exercise contained a range of fighter-jets, including U.S.- and Russian-origin platforms. The general said the exercise was comprised of three stages, including air defense and offensive missions.

"The military exercise was conducted throughout the country successfully," Mighani said.

The air force has about 230 aircraft, more than 20 percent of which were deemed unsuitable for combat. They include the U.S.-origin F-4, F-5 and F-14 and the Russian-origin MiG-29 and Su-24. Teheran has also reported the production of the indigenous Lightening fighter-jet.

"If Iran is attacked, it will deliver a crushing blow to the enemy," Mighani said. "We will surprise the enemy and make them regret they attacked."

Officials said the air maneuvers, reported in 15 of Iran's 30 provinces, marked the annual Defenders of Velayat exercise.

Officials said the air force exercise included air defense units, including batteries ordered from Russia. They said Iranian combat aircraft were testing new equipment and tactics.

The air force exercise has also included Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. IRGC was said to operate the Russian-origin aircraft, and on Sept. 16 Teheran announced that the corps would be responsible for operations in the Gulf.

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