|FILE PHOTO. An Iranian Shahed 171 drone dropping a bomb as part of a military exercise. © Tasnim News Agency via Reuters|
Iran's top military brass introduced the latest additions to the country's drone fleet on Saturday, including a long-range unmanned jet aircraft that can be used for reconnaissance or strike missions.
The drones were presented to the public by Iran's Defense Minister Amir Hatami. Flanking him were the commanders of the Air Force and the Air Defense of the Iranian Armed Forces.
Multirole combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were delivered to the #Iranian Army pic.twitter.com/wXaMm9Cj3b— IRNA News Agency (@IrnaEnglish) April 18, 2020
The minister said a “large number” of UAVs of three models were on the way to the military. One of them is the ‘Ababil-3’, the latest iteration of a middle-range single-engine aircraft that has been around for a decade. There is also the ‘Karrar’, an unmanned jet primarily used as a practice target for air defense, and another unspecified “versatile” jet drone, according to Iranian media.
“As the drones have been equipped with various types of bombs and missiles, they can be utilized by the forces in combat missions,” General Hatami said as cited by local media.
صبح امروز با حضور وزیر دفاع، ۳ نوع پهپاد شناسایی و رزمی به نیروی هوایی و پدافند ارتش تحویل شد که در این میان یک پهپاد با برد ۱۰۰۰ کیلومتر نیز وجود دارد. pic.twitter.com/D90DY2S5LC— خبرگزاری فارس (@FarsNews_Agency) April 18, 2020
Iranian drones, the minister said, can fly at an altitude of up to 45,000 feet (over 13,000 meters) and conduct missions at a range of up to 1,500km.
The presentation comes a day after the country celebrated National Army Day. Traditional weapons parades this year were replaced with a demonstration of medical equipment and military doctors as a bow to Iran's ongoing fight with the Covid-19 epidemic.
But even with the muted celebration the Iranian military this week has been highlighting its achievements and future plans. Iran's Navy chief, for example, said the country had plans to develop a nuclear-powered submarine to boost its capability.
Also this week a dozen speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps buzzed past US Navy warships in the Persian Gulf, indicating that the pandemic is by no means a reason for easing tensions between the two sides.