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Iran airs footage of underground drone base, days after strike at Parchin facility

Army commander boasts country’s UAVs are ‘region’s most powerful’; state TV says some 100 drones kept at facility in Zagros mountains

Iran's Army chief, Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi and Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri visit an underground site with drones at an undisclosed location in Iran, May 28, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Iran's Army chief, Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi and Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri visit an underground site with drones at an undisclosed location in Iran, May 28, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Iran’s army unveiled on Saturday some details about an underground base for its drones, as tensions ramped up following a UAV strike on an Iranian military complex and the assassination of a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Both those attacks have been linked in some reports to Israel, which has made no official comment.

According to Iran’s state media Saturday, some 100 drones are being kept in the underground facility — in the Zagros mountain range. These include the Ababil-5, which the Iranian reports said is fitted with Qaem-9 missiles, an Iranian copy of the US Hellfire air-to-surface munition, Reuters said, noting that Iran did not provide a specific location for the base.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said a cruise missile — named Heidar-1 — was also unveiled by the army. The agency said it was the first cruise missile capable of being fired from a drone.

“No doubt the drones of Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces are the region’s most powerful,” army commander Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi was quoted as saying during a visit to the site.

“Our capability to upgrade drones is unstoppable,” he added.

Footage published by Iranian state TV showed a tunnel, which the channel said was several hundred meters underground, with rows of drones fitted with missiles.

Iran has shown off similar tunnels in the past, which serve as storage areas for missiles and drones.

The reason for Saturday’s announcement was not immediately clear, but it came after a Wednesday explosion at Iran’s Parchin military complex, in which an engineer was killed. The New York Times reported Friday that the attack was carried out by quadcopter suicide drones, in an attack that fits a pattern of previous strikes that have been attributed to Israel.

The alleged drone strike came after gunmen on Sunday took out an officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the middle of Tehran.

Israel has told US officials that it was behind the assassination and that it killed Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei in an effort to warn Tehran against the continued operation of an alleged covert unit he helped lead, an intelligence official told the New York Times. Israeli officials did not confirm the report, and publicly criticized the US over the leaked story to the Times.

Israel, which has made no official comments on the incident, has reportedly raised the security alert level at its embassies and consulates around the world, fearing a retaliatory Iranian attack.

Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

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