The Iranian Air Force (IAF) kicked off its annual two-day ‘Defenders of the Sky’ drills on Monday, with the exercises, taking place in the central Iranian province of Isfahan, featuring planes operating from seven separate air bases, and an array of fighter jets, bombers, drones, reconnaissance aircraft, transports and tankers.
An Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber have fired off Qassed smart bomb at a moving ground target during the second day of the Defenders of the Sky exercise in Isfahan region, with footage of the drills appearing online.
In addition to the Qassed (lit. ‘Messenger’), classified as a 900 kg ‘smart’ electro-optic-guided munition, F-4s fired Maverick tactical air-to-ground missiles, with both classes of missile detonating on target with pinpoint accuracy, according to drill spokesman Brig. Gen. Farhad Goudarzi.
According to Goudarzi, the drills also saw the successful deployment of Arash kamikaze drones, with the warhead-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles said to have flown a distance of 100 km before smashing into enemy fortifications, destroying them.
Tuesday’s drills followed operations on Monday which saw IAF Su-24 fighter bombers attacking simulated enemy targets with 500 kg smart missiles, as well as F-14 and MiG-29 fighters carrying out aerial combat operations against simulated enemies, while McDonnell Douglas RF-4 jets fitted with domestically-produced cameras carried out reconnaissance over the wargame area, and Kaman 12 drones gathered intelligence and conducted electronic surveillance. Monday also saw the deployment of F-5, F-7, and F-14 jets, Iran’s new Saeqeh fighter jet and Boeing 707 refueling tankers, along with other aircraft.
In addition to several homegrown aircraft and drones, the Islamic Republic’s Air Force is equipped with a variety of Russian, American, Chinese and French-made combat jets, with part of this inventory inherited from the Shah’s regime after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the rest purchased over the past thirty years or so prior to the imposition of the United Nations arms embargo in 2010. The restrictions were scrapped last month following a failed attempt by the US to prolong them indefinitely.
The IAF is believed to have about 20 MiG-29 and 23 Sukhoi Su-24 jets from Russia, about 17 Chinese-built Chengdu F-7s (a license-built copy of the Soviet MiG-21), nearly 50 US-made F-4 Phantom IIs, 20 Northrop F-5s, two dozen Grumman F-14s and 9 French-made Mirage F1s, with many of the aircraft heavily modified, customized and upgraded.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran has devoted considerable financial, industrial and scientific resources toward achieving self-sufficiency in an array of military-related fields, developing everything from missiles and drones to tanks, air defence systems and military satellites, either entirely from scratch or on the basis of upgraded foreign designs.