Replacement for S-300 missile?
Iran's Ahmadinejad. Message to Israel
Islamic Republic flexing its muscles: Iran on Tuesday launched a wide-scale exercise aimed at examining its air defense system.
The exercise, dubbed "Defenders of the Sky 3", attempts to simulate an attack on the country's borders and nuclear facilities – in a clear message to Israel and the United States, which have not ruled out a military strike against the Islamic Republic.
The Iranian news agency reported that homemade antiaircraft missiles systems would be tested during the five-day maneuver. It was unclear whether the Ayatollah regime would also test the Iranian-made antiaircraft system aimed at replacing the Russian S-300, after Moscow refused to act on the contract between the countries and hand the missile system over to Tehran.
A senior Iranian commander said ahead of the exercise, which has been defined by local media as a "major" and "comprehensive" drill, that his country was not fearful of an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.
"The Zionist regime will never have the courage to strike in Iran, because the first mistake they make will also be the last," said the head of operations at the Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base.
The base's commander, General Ahmad Miqani, said Sunday while preparing for the maneuver that Israel was incapable of attacking Iran.
"The Zionist regime engages in various maneuvers in order to maintain its readiness and create psychological warfare, but even they couldn't even defeat Hezbollah and Hamas, so they are no threat to Iran."
Miqani served in the past as commander of Iran's air force and was promoted to head of the air defense system. This promotion illustrates the importance given to this force by Tehran's decision makers, in light of repeated reports on Israel's plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
The Islamic Republic declared last week that it had developed a version of the Russian S-300 missile and will test-fire it soon.
"The Iranian (version) of the S-300 system is undergoing field modification and will be test-fired soon," the IRNA news agency quoted Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian, a commander in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, as saying.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev banned the delivery of the high-precision S-300 air defense system to Iran in September, scuttling a tentative deal in gestation for years, saying it would violate expanded UN sanctions imposed in June over Iran's defiance of demands to curb its nuclear program.
Iranian officials said after Russia scrapped the sale that Tehran had decided to build its own model of the S-300.
Reuters contributed to this report
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