On Thursday Iran’s IRGC announced that it had launched a major drill dubbed Illa Beit al-Maqdis (الی بیت المقدس 1), a reference to the way “to Jerusalem”, in the Persian Gulf region. The exercise took place with IRGC deputy-leader Hossein Salami and Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps since October 2009.
“For the first time, there were 50 Iranian drones of RQ-170 [copy of the US Sentinel] along with a number of other assault drones.” The other drones were Shahed 129 copies of the US MQ-1 Predator. The drill was a lead story of Fars News and Tasnim on Thursday morning. ISNA and others also covered it. All included a similar statement and photos showing several drones on pick-up trucks and flying. Hossein Dalirian tweeted some additional details as well.
The IRGC says “This is for the first time in our country as well as in other countries, that the number of UAVs simultaneously in an offensive operation – at a distance of more than one thousand kilometers away [during] simultaneous flight time and at a specified time with the presence of their predetermined targets.” Precision weapons hit and destroyed the targets, Iran says.
Major General Gholam Ali Rashid, commander of Khatam al-Anbiya headquarters, said that although the US has threatened Iran on the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, the drone operation shows Tehran’s abilities. Salami “noted with appreciation of the action and will of the IRGC’s aerospace force is today [at the]…forefront of the production of modern UAVs with a purely Iranian and indigenous character [despite being] under sanctions.”
Hajizadeh said that all the development technologies of the UAVs were designed, manufactured and operational due to the support of the current government. “One of the features of this exercise is the power to design and plan co-flying UAVs in a very small geographic area that has brought about the rise of a new air power in Islamic Iran.”
The statement says drones were flown in Khuzestan, Bushehr, Fars and Hormozgan provinces. These involved both the copy of the Sentinel and the copy of the MQ-1 Predator.
“This is a powerful crackdown on the arrogance and reminds them that the huge amount of money spent in the area will give you the results.”
The drill forms part of a series of important attempts by Iran to showcase its technology. It has claimed recently to have hacked into US drones over Iraq and Syria. It carried out a large naval exercise in February. At the same time Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is wrapping up a trip to Iraq in which Iran says it has reached a new chapter in bilateral relations and “strategic ties.”
An Iranian drone was shot down by Israel in February 2018 and an Iranian drone was intercepted over Saudi Arabia in January. Iran has recently sought to showcase new ballistic missiles as well as locally designed warplanes, and naval units.