Amid increasing talk of a possible Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities, Iran has begun construction of a new, state-of-the-art, anti-aircraft missile base.
The new base, located near the city of Abadeh, in southern Iran, will cost $300 million, be home to 6,000 personnel, and host seven battalions, Iran’s Fars news agency reported Tuesday.
The Deputy Commander of the Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base, Mohammad Hosseini, said the base, the largest of its kind in Iran, will also include one of the most important military training centers in the country.
Last month, a senior Iranian air defense commander asserted that all Iranian air defense units and systems are fully prepared to repel possible enemy air raids.
Also on Tuesday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled an upgraded version of a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile just weeks after it was test-fired, Iranian state media reported.
At the ceremony unveiling the Fateh-110, or Conqueror, Ahmadinejad told a group of defense officials that Iran wants to advance its defense technology “not in an aggressive context, but as a deterrence.”
“We do not seek it for conquest, domination of neighboring countries and the world. We do not want it because of defiance,” said Ahmadinejad, according to state TV.
Iran considers both the United States and Israel as potential adversaries. Neither country has ruled out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, which they claim is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.
The official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday that the new version of Fateh-110 has a quicker launch capability, a longer life and can be used in adverse weather conditions, but gave no other details. The missile has been in service in Iran over the past decade.
Iran claimed earlier in August that it successfully test-fired the missile, saying at the time that Fateh-110 has an improved accuracy to strike land and naval targets within a 300 kilometer (185 mile) range.
Since 1992, Iran has tried to set up a self-sufficient military program. The country’s military leaders have said they believe future wars will take place in the air and on sea, and Tehran has sought to upgrade its air defense systems and naval power in anticipation of such a possibility.
Iran has also been pushing to upgrade its missiles, which already can target Israel and US bases in the Middle East. The Pentagon released a report in June noting significant advances in Iranian missile technology, acknowledging that the Islamic Republic has improved the accuracy and firing capabilities of its missiles.
Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said Iran will commission a new generation of fighter jets, missiles, unmanned drones and submarines by the Iranian New Year, which falls in March 2013.
Iran’s purported military advancements are impossible to independently verify because the country does not release technical details of its arsenals or rely on equipment from major international defense contractors.