Iran sets major exercise; Ahmadinejad sees war by November
NICOSIA — Iran, warning of an imminent war, has been preparing for another major military exercise.
The Iranian Air Force has scheduled a week-long exercise in the western part of the country near Iraq and the Gulf. Officials said the exercise would seek to enhance interoperability as well as night missions.
"The maneuvers will also include mid-air refueling of aircraft," Iranian Air Force deputy chief Gen. Mohammed Alavi said.
On July 26, Alavi said the exercise would begin on July 31 in the Hamadan province, Middle East Newsline reported. He said 43 aircraft would participate, including the U.S.-origin F-4, and F-5, the Chinese-origin F-6 and F-7 and the Russian-origin Su-24.
The air exercise was being prepared as Iran warned of a major U.S. military strike in the Middle East. On July 27, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Washington would attack at least two countries in the Middle East by November 2010.
"They have decided to attack at least two countries in the region in the next three months," Ahmadinejad, who did not elaborate, told Iranian television.
For his part, Alavi said the Air Force would deploy unmanned aerial vehicles during the exercise, which would involve at least nine bases. He said attack missions would be conducted at night, the first time that the F-7 and Su-24 would participate in such operations.
The exercise, titled "Devotees to the Sanctity of Religious Leadership," would also include the launch of new air-to-ground munitions, officials said. They said the F-4 and Su-24 would also practice mid-air refueling to prepare for long-range missions.
Iran has intensified air and naval exercises amid its acceleration of the nation's nuclear program. Teheran has repeatedly warned against any Israeli or U.S. air strike.