Iran's army drill to test new air defense system

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s military is to test a new air defense system modeled after the U.S. Hawk system as tensions with the West escalate over the country’s suspect nuclear program, the Iranian state TV reported today.

The report quoted Gen. Farzad Esmaili, chief of Iran’s air defense headquarters, as saying the surface-to-air system has been named “Mersad,” or Ambush. The system is capable of locking a flying object at a distance of 50 miles and can hit from 30 miles away, using an Iranian-made missile dubbed Shahin, or Hawk, according to the report.

The TV said Mersad will be tested during the military exercises that started last weekend. Billed as “massive,” the week-long drill is also to include Iranian jet fighters, drones and about 8,000 troops, spanning over nearly the entire eastern half of Iran.

The drill is meant to upgrade Iranian capabilities amid rising tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s enrichment program, which can be a pathway to nuclear arms.

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