TEHRAN — Iran’s navy on Friday unveiled its first division of ships and submarines capable of carrying armed drones, as US President Joe Biden tours the Middle East.
The United States and Israel have previously accused the Islamic Republic of using drones and missiles to attack US forces and Israel-linked ships in the Gulf.
“The first drone-carrier division of the Iranian navy consisting of ships and submarine units carrying all types of drone for combat, detection and destruction has been unveiled,” state television said.
“All types of the latest advanced drones produced by the military and the defense ministry have flown over the Indian Ocean’s waters to demonstrate their capabilities,” it added, showing images of drones taking off from a naval vessel.
The announcement comes as Biden undertakes his first presidential visit to Israel, where he and Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday signed a security pact reinforcing their common front against Iran.
Biden’s trip also included a presentation of Israel’s “Iron Beam” air defense system, which uses lasers to intercept drones and missiles.
“As we are aware of the aggressive attitude in the (United States’) system of domination, it is necessary to increase our defensive capabilities day-by-day,” Iranian army commander Abdolrahim Mousavi said on television.
“If the enemies make a mistake, (these drones) will present them with a regrettable response,” he warned during the unveiling.
Iran’s foreign ministry said Saturday that an air defense pact between Israel and Arab regional allies — formed under US leadership to counter the threat of Iran’s drones and missiles — would only increase regional tensions.
In October 2021, the United States imposed sanctions targeting Iran’s drone program, accusing it of supplying the technology to its allies in the region, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Huthis of Yemen and the Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has repeatedly warned that Iranian drones are a significant threat to the region — especially as Tehran arms proxies stationed along Israel’s borders. Military officials said earlier this year that Iran’s “UAV terror” is a new and global issue, accusing Tehran of directly attacking both military and civilian targets in the Middle East.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday said Iran plans to deliver “hundreds of drones” to Russia to aid its war on Ukraine.
On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian dismissed Sullivan’s accusations as “baseless” during a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.
Iran began developing its drone program in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.