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Iran: Prioritizing Sky Defences

Don’t listen to those who speak of democracy. They all are against Islam. They want to take the nation away from its mission. We will break all the poison pens of those who speak of nationalism, democracy, and such things. [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]

Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s air forces were considered second only to Israel in the Middle East, built up by aid from the country’s then-ally the United States.

GENEVA: World powers held their first meeting in 14 months with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme on Monday (today), sounding out Tehran’s intentions after it claimed to have taken a new step in making fissile material. Just a day ahead of the talks, Tehran raised the stakes by revealing that it had mined and produced its first home-grown batch of uranium yellowcake instead of seeking to import new supplies. On the other hand, In military maneuvers and air shows, Iran has been proudly touting advances in its air forces and defenses, including radar systems, anti-aircraft batteries and new attack and reconnaissance drones. Air superiority is seems to be a new priority for Iran, who is trying to quickly bolster its ability to patrol its skies in the belief that US or Israeli warplanes or missiles could strike its nuclear facilities. For the most part, Iran’s air attack capabilities still depend heavily on domestically modified versions of long-outdated warplanes, including former Soviet MiGs and American F14A Tomcats from the 1970s, and its anti-aircraft batteries and drones.

Taking the air defences further, It was not a long ago when Iran kicked off one of its periodic air defense exercise, in order to protect their nuclear sites. Started on 16th November, the exercise lasted five days and featured Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its paramilitary Basij forces joining in. Interestingly, The monitoring network of Iran’s air defense forces has discovered 194 previously unknown flying routes outside the country’s airspace, not only that Iranian Air Defense Forces has identified 1,612 flying routes (4 unknowns within the countary) inside the country, some are currently used by countary’s civilian airline industry. This identification resulted, during Iran’s Air Defence and Missile System tests, conducted same week. This air defence exercise was named Defenders of the Sky of Vellayat III. More about S-300 missiles and defence of Islamic skies can be read HERE .

This photo released by the Iranian army, claims to show the launching of a Shahin missile in armed forces war games, outside the city of Semnan about 140 miles (240 kilometers) east of the capital Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

Still, Iran clearly is trying to close security gaps around nuclear sites – including Iran’s main uranium enrichment lab – and blunt the edge that the Pentagon and Israel gain from drone technology. Iranian commanders now view drones as a critical tool, including to monitor the US 5th Fleet based across the Gulf in Bahrain. Iran’s other military emphasis has been improving its long-range missile program. Washington believes Iran may have obtained advanced missiles from North Korea, known as BM-25, which could extend the strike range for Iran from the known 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) to up to 2,400 miles (4,000 kilometers), according to State Department cables obtained by the website WikiLeaks and made public Sunday. Such missiles could hit well beyond Iran’s top regional enemy Israel and into Europe or Russia. Iran restructured its military last year in an effort to improve its air defenses. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered a new branch to be split off from the air force to deal exclusively with threats to the country’s airspace. Since then, Iran has invested heavily in advances in surveillance and attack drones.

In August, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled the latest addition to the country’s drone fleet: a 13-foot-long (four-meter-long) unmanned aircraft — called the “ambassador of death” — which can carry up to four cruise missiles with a claimed range of 620 miles (1,000 kilometers). At least two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years, one of them in an attack similar to the recent one. Iranian officials said they suspected the assassination was part of a covert campaign aimed at damaging the country’s nuclear program, which the United States and its allies says is intended to build a weapon, a claim Tehran denies. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a press conference that ”undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination.” But he said the attack would not hamper the nuclear program and vowed that one day Iran would take retribution. ”The day in the near future when time will come for taking them into account, their file will be very thick,” he said.

As far as drones are concerned Iranians has seen what USA has done iin Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many analysts believe a longer-range drone is the logical next step of Iran – who is investing heavily in advances in surveillance and attack drones. What is the purpose of these activities and advances, while still holding onto the outdated militray technology, or is it political to show that they can defend themselves, exert power in the region?

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