TEHRAN — Iran’s Arabic language TV station al-Alam reported that the country’s air defense base sent two warnings in the last six months to US spy aircraft that approached Iranian airspace.
The TV’s website quoted the country’s chief of air defense, Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili, as saying Iran warned a U2 reconnaissance aircraft on March 21. He did not mention the location.
He also said the country’s air defense warned an American drone on August 26.
Gen. Esmaili said: “We do not allow such rabid aircrafts to enter our territory and if necessary, will not hesitate to destroy them.”
Iran has repeatedly announced such activities over the past years to demonstrate the capabilities of the country’s armed forces.
In an interview on Saturday, Esmaili said Iran has tested its homegrown air defense system, designed to match the Russian S-300.
“In parallel with the deployment of the S-300, work on Bavar-373 system is underway,” Farzad Esmaili told state broadcaster IRIB late Saturday.
“The system is made completely in Iran and some of its parts are different from the S-300. All of its subsystems have been completed and its missile tests have been conducted.”
Bavar (which means “belief”) is Tehran’s first long-range missile defense system, and is set to be operational by March 2018, he added.
In 2010, Iran began manufacturing Bavar-373 after the purchase of the S-300 from Russia was suspended due to international sanctions.
Russia resumed the sale following the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers which lifted sanctions, and Iran’s S-300 defense system became operational in March.
On Saturday, the new defense minister Amir Hatami said Iran has “a specific plan to boost missile power.”
He said he hoped “the combat capabilities of Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles” would increase in the next four years.
Iran is a key supporter of Syria and the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. Both threaten Israel with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles.
Israel has in recent years repeatedly hit convoys believed to be transferring advanced rockets and missiles, being transferred from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah.
Jerusalem has also warned against Iranian efforts to set up missile production facilities in Lebanon, with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman telling United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a meeting in Israel earlier this week that Iran is “working to set up factories to manufacture accurate weapons within Lebanon itself.”
Esmaili and Hatami’s comments came amid increasing tensions with Washington, which has passed new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program.