TEHRAN, Iran – Iran has successfully tested a newly developed air defense missile system during the country’s biggest ever air defense drill, the country’s military announced Thursday.
Iran’s state television said the test was Tehran’s response to Moscow’s refusal to deliver the advanced Russian S-300 air defense system amid U.N. and international sanctions on the country.
Gen. Hamid Arjangi, a spokesman for the five-day exercise, said the system – known as Mersad, or Ambush in Farsi – and Shahin, or Hawk, missile can identify and destroy modern planes flying at low or at medium altitudes, according to the state IRNA news agency.
He described the Mersad, which allegedly is already being mass produced, as a valuable asset in defending Iran’s airspace from planes or drones flying at those altitudes.
State television said the locally developed missiles were similar to the anti-aircraft missile system that Russia refused to deliver, citing the latest round of U.N. sanctions imposed in response to Tehran’s nuclear program.
“The Iranian-made missile system is an upgraded version of the anti-aircraft Russian S-200 missile system and has the same capability as that of the Russian S-300 missile,” the television reported.
Iran was angered by Russia’s action and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused Moscow of caving in to “Satan.”
The Russian defense system is capable of shooting down aircraft and missiles at ranges of over 90 miles and at altitudes of about 90,000 feet. Israel and the United States had objected to the deal.
The exercise, which started Tuesday, is meant to showcase Iran’s capabilities in defending its nuclear facilities from possible attack.
Iran conducts several war games every year, as part of its military self-sufficiency program that started in 1992, and frequently unveils new weapons and military systems during the drills. Its claims of their effectiveness cannot be independently verified.
When Iran’s Defense Ministry announced Mersad’s development in April, it said the system will be used to launch Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era U.S.-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk has a range of 15 miles with a 119-pound warhead and was sold to Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.