The Islamic Republic Army of Iran and the Revolutionary Guards are to conduct joint military exercises in the southwest or southeast of the country, a senior Iranian army commander said on Wednesday.

Brig.-Gen. Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan, commander of the Iranian ground forces, said that the army and the Revolutionary Guards will carry out a special joint air exercise that will be the first of its type since the Islamic Revolution, Iran’s ISNA news outlet and hardline Mashregh news reported. A further eight joint military exercises would be held in the upcoming year, Pourdastan said.

The ground forces commander added that the exercises would be performed using live ammunition and in battle conditions, to prepare soldiers for war.

The Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic Republic Army of Iran act as parallel ground forces, but while the regular army is tasked with defending the country and maintaining civil order, the job of the Revolutionary Guards is to protect Iran’s Islamic regime. The Revolutionary Guards, which the US designated a terrorist organization in 2007, also controls Iran’s Basij militia, and the secret Quds Force, which conducts operations outside Iran.

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The announcement came days before Iran and six world powers are due to restart negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, and as the Islamic Republic continues to give mixed messages about its position.

According to Pourdastan, who made the announcement during a speech for Iran’s Army Day, the Islamic Republic has also developed its own vertical wind tunnel for military use. Vertical wind tunnels are used to teach skydiving to elite troops.

The military commander said that while there are several such wind tunnels in Arab countries, those were of Western origin, whereas Iran’s had been built domestically, in cooperation with the Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization.

Pourdastan also said Iran plans to improve its domestic- built Zulfiqar tank by adding a new firing control system and laser range-finder.

Iran’s Zulfiqar is a second-generation main battle tank, developed and mass-produced since the 1990s and believed to be based on components from Russia’s T-72 tank as well as American M48 and M60 Patton tanks.

Currently, the most updated model, Zulfiqar-3, is equipped with a firing system based on a Soviet design.

According to Pourdastan, Iran has produced a Gatlingtype 7.62 caliber machine gun, dubbed the Akhgar, which has an effective range of over 2 kilometers.

The maneuvers would be the latest in a series of military exercises and war games Iran has staged since the start of the year, amid growing tensions and concerns of war with Israel.

In February, the Revolutionary Guards announced they had begun a two-day military exercise outside the central Iranian city of Yazd, which Iran said was designed to upgrade its defense capabilities.

Also in February, Iran announced that it had deployed anti-aircraft artillery and warplanes to protect its nuclear sites from possible Israeli airstrikes, in a military exercise it dubbed Sarollah, from an Arabic term meaning “the vengeance of God.” That same month, the Revolutionary Guards conducted military exercises in the south of Iran.

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