Iran says it tested new air defense
System similar to Russia version
TEHRAN — Iran has successfully tested a newly developed defense missile system during the country’s biggest ever air defense drill, the country’s military announced yesterday.
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 UN and international sanctions on the country.
General Hamid Arjangi, a spokesman for the five-day exercise, said the system — known as Mersad, or ambush in Farsi, and Shahin, or hawk — was developed by Iranian scientists and is capable of identifying and hitting targets at low and medium altitudes.
“This medium-range air defense system can identify and destroy modern planes flying at low or at medium altitudes,’’ Arjangi said, 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 air space from planes or drones flying at those altitudes.
State television said the locally developed missiles were similar to the antiaircraft missile system that Russia refused to deliver, citing the latest round of UN sanctions imposed in response to Tehran’s nuclear program.
“The Iranian-made missile system is an upgraded version of the antiaircraft Russian S-200 missile system and has the same capability as that of the Russian S-300 missile,’’ state television reported.
Iran was angered by Russia’s action and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused Moscow of caving in to “Satan.’’
Iran has said the 2007 contract for the S-300s remains valid and warned that Russia must pay compensation and penalties for unilaterally canceling the deal.
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 attack.
Iran conducts several war games every year as part of its military self-sufficiency program 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 US-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.
Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns by the United States and its European allies that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.
Iran denies it is working on nuclear weapons and maintains that the program is only for peaceful purposes. It has also said Israel would face “devastating retaliation’’ if it attacked the Islamic Republic.