Iran says it’s tested new air defense system .

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran said Tuesday it successfully tested a new air defense system modeled after the U.S. Hawk system during a drill in the country’s east. A senior Iranian official called the maneuvers a “slap” to America and Israel.

State TV broadcast footage Tuesday said to be from the drill, which began Saturday and which has been billed as “massive.” The footage shows a Hawk missile being launched and hitting a mock aircraft.

Earlier reports said the new surface-to-air system is named “Mersad,” or Ambush. It is capable of locking a flying object at a distance of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and can hit from 45 kilometers (30 miles) away, state TV said.

According to the reports, the Iranian military is expected to test anti-aircraft batteries and other air defense systems as part of the drill.

“This military exercise is a message and a strong slap to those countries that threaten,” said air defense chief Gen. Farzad Esmaili, referring to the United States and Israel. “And a message of peace and friendship to friendly countries.”

Both Israel and the U.S. have not ruled out a military option against Iran’s suspect nuclear program, which the West fears intends to produce an atomic weapon. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

The test came during a six-day air defense drill under way over almost the entire eastern half of the country. The exercise has been said to include Iranian jet fighters, drones and more than 8,000 troops.

Iran regularly holds military exercises aimed at boosting its defense capabilities. It also occasionally announces additions to its arsenal, holds inauguration ceremonies, starts up new production lines and test-fires new missiles. The purported military advancements are impossible to independently verify.


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