Iran’s advanced S-300 air defense system, delivered by Russia after years of delay, is now “fully integrated” into the air defense network, a senior Iranian air force commander told the country’s state media Sunday.
In an interview with the Tasnim news network, Gen. Abolfazl Sepehri Rad, deputy commander of the Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base, said the missile defense system has been stationed across Iran and is ready for “practical operations.”
The general also said that the Iran has launched research programs to manufacture other air defense systems, and that “good results” have been achieved.
Iran had been trying to acquire the S-300 system for years to ward off repeated threats by Israel to bomb its nuclear facilities, but Russia had held off delivery until after a July 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, in line with UN sanctions imposed over the country’s nuclear program.
In March, Tehran state television reported that the weapons system was operational and had been successfully tested. It said that a test at a desert base had seen several targets, including a ballistic missile and a drone, intercepted.
The deal to buy the S-300 system was originally signed in 2007 but Russia suspended it in 2010 citing a UN ban on arms sales to Iran. It was revived after the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers went into effect in January last year.
In August, state television aired footage of the system being installed around the Fordo nuclear site in a mountain near Qom, south of the capital.
The Russian-made missile defense system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both aircraft and missiles.
Israel had long sought to block the sale, which analysts say could impede a potential Israeli strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. Other officials have expressed concern that the systems could reach 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. In a 2015 interview, now-retired Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said the S-300 was a “significant but not insurmountable challenge” for the IAF.
AFP contributed to this report.