Iran on Saturday unveiled what it called a locally upgraded missile defense system with a range of 400 kilometers (250 miles), armed with “high capabilities” and able to defend against cruise and ballistic missiles and drones.
The “Falagh” is a locally overhauled version of the imported “Gamma” surveillance radar, the semi-official news agency ISNA said, in an apparent reference to a Russian-made system of that name.
“This radar is capable of identifying and finding all types of cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, drone systems and also ballistic missiles within a 400-kilometer range,” ISNA quoted army air defense force chief Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi-Fard as saying during the unveiling ceremony.
The Falagh was also capable of connecting to the Islamic republic’s air defence network and completing the coverage of the S-300 missile system it acquired from Russia, the news agency said.
Iran installed the S-300 system in March 2016 following several years of delay after a nuclear agreement reached with world powers allowed the lifting of international sanctions.
According to a Mehr report, “sanctions, lack of spare parts, and the inability of foreign engineers to repair the system led the Iranian experts… to fully reconstruct the system and unveil the new system…'”
The announcement came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Persian Gulf waters.
Iran has seized three tankers in the Gulf since last month, including the British-flagged vessel.
The ship seizures came after British Royal Marines helped to impound a tanker carrying Iranian oil off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on July 4, alleging it was destined for EU-sanctioned Syria, an accusation Iran denies.
Iran also downed an American drone in the Persian Gulf in June. The Global Hawk, an advanced US navy surveillance drone, was flying at high altitude — it can reach 60,000 feet (18,000 meters) — when it was struck by a ground-to-air missile by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
In response to the tanker attacks, the US has been seeking to form a coalition whose mission — dubbed Operation Sentinel — it says is to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.
Besides Britain, which already has warships on protection duty in the Gulf after a UK-flagged tanker was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, other European countries have refrained from joining the planned operation for fear it might harm their efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran.
Tehran and Washington have been locked in a battle of nerves since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions.
Iran also threatened Israel on Friday, warning that its possible involvement in the US-led military coalition in the was a threat to its national security, and vowing to counter Israeli presence in the region.
“The announcement made about the possible presence of the al-Quds occupying regime [Israel] in the self-proclaimed military coalition in the Persian Gulf region is a blatant threat to Iran’s national security,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Mousavi said that Iran claimed the right to self-defense to oppose Israeli and American moves in the region.
He was likely responding to comments reportedly made by Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who on Tuesday in a closed session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said Israel was involved in US-led efforts to provide maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz, according to the Ynet news site.
Katz said Israel was assisting the mission to secure the strategic waterway with intelligence and in other unspecified fields. He stressed the mission was in Israel’s strategic interest of countering Iran and boosting ties with Gulf countries.
Responding to Katz’s comments, Iran’s defense minister on Thursday said that the formation of a US-led flotilla would “increase insecurity” and any Israeli involvement would have “disastrous consequences” for the region.
“The military coalition that America is seeking to form with the excuse of securing maritime transport will only increase insecurity in the region,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said in a conference call with counterparts from Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
Reacting to reports of Israeli willingness to join the coalition, he said it would be “highly provocative and can have disastrous consequences for the region.