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Iran holding large-scale naval drills in strategic southern waters; foreign aircraft warned to stay away

Iranian Army forces have begun large-scale naval exercises in the country’s southern waters from east of the Hormuz Strait to the northern Indian Ocean, with American and all other extra-regional military aircraft clearing the skies over the drill area following a warning from Iran’s Air Defense Force.

The three-day exercises, dubbed Zolfaqar-99, kicked off on Thursday under the command of the Army’s Zolfaqar base, with observers from the Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base in attendance.

The drills cover an area of two million square kilometers in the eastern waters of the Strait of Hormuz, Makran coast, Oman Sea and North Ocean India up to 10 degrees north.

‘Extra-regional aircraft warned to stay away’

Prior to the maneuvers, manned aircraft and drones belonging to extra-regional forces had been warned to stay away from the zone of the drills, resulting in a noticeable change in the behavior of American UAVs operating in the area, said Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, spokesman for the drills.

Units of the Army’s Air and Ground Forces will contribute to the maneuvers, during which tactical offensive and defensive strategies will be drilled in line with the country’s agenda to safeguard its territorial waters and maritime access routes.

Defense equipment put to test

During the military exercises, the Armed Forces will put to test different home-made military equipment and defense systems, including drones, torpedoes, surface-to-surface and coast-to-sea cruise missiles, surface-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and rocket launchers loaded on vessels.

Irani said the 69th Naval Fleet, including Sahand Destroyer and Bandar Abbas Support Ship, are currently in the Indian Ocean to provide intelligence and monitor foreign and enemy vessels.

Air Force bombers and combat drones will also conduct pre-designed missions during the exercises, he added.

The military official further noted that in addition to F-27 and P3F aircraft, reconnaissance drones are conducting naval patrols to monitor the drills, and have issued the necessary warnings for the extra-territorial units to leave the area.

F-4 fighter jets destroy targets

Iran’s F-4 fighter-bombers joined the maneuvers after conducting long-range flights from their bases and undergoing aerial refueling by tanker aircraft. They destroyed surface targets using optimized precision strike missiles.

Additionally, the F-4 Phantoms successfully drilled shooting at mobile targets at sea and bombed their designated targets on the coast.

Speaking on the eve of the drills, Deputy Commander of the Iranian Army Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the exercises were designed to both bolster the country’s combat preparedness and practice repelling any extra-regional threat.

The drills, he added, were meant to enhance the safety of regional waters and international shipping routes in West Asia.

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