Iran’s army is now fully equipped with a Russian air defense system after a long and controversial delivery process, Defense Minister General Hossein Dehghan was quoted as saying Tuesday.
“I inform our people that… we are in possession of the strategic S-300 system” and that it “serves our air force’s counterattack command,” Dehghan said, according to the ISNA news agency.
Parts of the system, including missile tubes and radar equipment, were displayed on April 17 during a military parade in southern Tehran.
The United States and Israel have criticized Russia for the sale of the S-300 system to the Islamic republic.
Tehran says it needs the system to strengthen its defense against possible attacks, including on its nuclear facilities.
The Russian-made system is among the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both airplanes and missiles.
Israel has long sought to block the sale to Iran of the S-300 system, which analysts say could impede a potential strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. Other officials have expressed concern that the systems could eventually be delivered to Syria and Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s regional air supremacy.
The Israeli Air Force has trained for a scenario in which it would have to carry out strikes in Syria or Iran on facilities defended by the S-300 system.
In an interview late last year, IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said the S-300 was a “significant but not insurmountable challenge” for the IAF.
“The power of our armed forces is not against our southern, northern, eastern and western neighbors,” he said.
Iran and Russia originally signed a contract for its delivery in 2007, but in 2010 Moscow suspended the sale after the UN Security Council issued a resolution against Iran’s nuclear program.
In 2010 Russia froze a deal to supply the system to Iran, linking the decision to UN sanctions instituted because of Tehran’s nuclear program. Putin lifted the suspension in July 2015, following Iran’s deal with six world powers that curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
In the last several months, there have been multiple reports in the Russian and Iranian press that delivery of the system was imminent or had been carried out.
Dehghan also announced Tuesday that Iran will start manufacturing this year an air defense system, Bavar 373, “capable of destroying cruise missiles, drones, combat aircraft and ballistic missiles.”
“This long-range system is able to destroy several targets at once,” he added.
The two countries are also in talks for delivery to Iran of Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jets, a deal criticized by Washington.