Iran carried out a large ground forces drill last week. The exercise was called Eqtedar 1401. The drill showcased Iranian tanks and armored vehicles conducting large-scale operations in a desert environment. The country also carried out night drills with old Bell and Cobra helicopters, which Tehran has kept flying for decades.
According to reports, the drills took place in Isfahan province. Iran claims to have tested a missile called the Fateh 360, which carries a 175 kg. payload and allegedly has a range of 3,000 km., which would supposedly allow it to reach Israel.
The ground forces that arrived at an area near Nasrabad included long lines of tanks and vehicles. Drones and missiles were also used. A long article at Iran’s Fars News detailed some of the different types of operations the Islamic Republic conducted during the drill.
According to the reports, the “distinctive feature of the army’s ground force, which has been obtained locally in recent years and has been able to play an effective role in improving the mobility of this force, is the increase in mobility.”
Iran says that “in recent years, the Air Force has been able to acquire the night vision technology [locally], and in this way it can perform the required missions well.” Apparently, until now Iran only flew its helicopters in operations during the day.
Tehran also says that the operation included large-scale coordination with special units, such as a special rapid reaction force using helicopters and the use of “Shafaq” air-to-ground missiles. Mohammad Bagheri, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military commander, who is now serving as chief of staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, attended the drills.
It’s important to note that the IRGC forces are separate from Iran’s regular army. In some ways, the IRGC receives new technology first, before the army. Therefore the ground forces tend to be starved of new equipment.
According to the Iranian reports, the helicopters were able to successfully launch the “fire and forget” air-to-ground missiles. In a second stage of the drills, Iran tested new missiles, including what it calls the Fateh 360 missile, which can travel at Mach 4. It was unclear if this use of the missile can be confirmed, but Iran seems confident its new missiles work well. It also fired the Fajr-5 missile.
The Fateh 360, Iran claims, has high levels of accuracy and can track and destroy a target.
“The first firing of the Fateh 360 missile took place while this missile had already been displayed for the first time in the April 29 parade.”
The Fars news report says that the Fateh 360 was used for the first time and that is to be used against strategic targets. Iranian commanders said “the guidance system of this missile is such that it communicates with several satellites every second and immediately corrects its course. Also, this missile is fired with a six-projectile launcher and is a rocket; long-range, accurate and strategic.” This apparently means that several of the rockets could be fired at the same time.
Increasing tensions between Iran and Israel
“Bahrain was a part of Iran's territory, which was separated from Iran during an illegal conflict between the Shah and the American and British governments.”Hossein Shariatmadari, managing editor, Kayhan
According to Iran’s Press TV, the ground forces drill comes amid increasing tensions with Israel. Iran’s state media has slammed Gulf states for hosting US forces, claiming that US Central Command is increasingly working with Israel. Iran says it has warned against the “ramifications” of the partnership of the US, Israel and Gulf countries.
In the context of these new Iranian threats, Iran’s Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of Kayhan, a conservative Iranian newspaper close to the regime, also slammed the Arab League and Gulf states. According to Fars News, he also made provocative comments claiming that Bahrain is part of Iran.
He said that following the “interference” of the Arab League, Iran was pointing out that “Bahrain was a part of Iran’s territory, which was separated from Iran during an illegal conflict between the shah and the American and British governments. And today, the main demand of the people of Bahrain is the return of this province separated from Iran to its motherland, that is, Islamic Iran. It is obvious that this inalienable right of Iran and the people of its separated province should not and cannot be ignored.”
He also slammed the UAE, rejecting Arab League comments about several disputed islands.
His comments come as Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the contents of the statement of the meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers.
“Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said issuing such statements shows a lack of a proper understanding on part of some of the mentioned countries regarding the course of developments in the region and ignoring the realities of the West Asian region,” Tasnim News said. “Rejecting the claims in the statement regarding the three Iranian islands, Kanaani said all of Iran’s actions are within the framework of exercising sovereignty over the country’s territorial integrity and condemned the interference of other parties in this regard.”
The overall context of the ground forces drill and the provocative comments against Bahrain and the UAE, as well as Iran testing a new missile, point to Iran preparing for possible confrontation or a rise in tensions. This comes amid the Iran deal talks.
Iran is clearly communicating its views regarding US-Israel ties and also Gulf-Israel ties two years after the Abraham Accords were signed. Iranian state media has accused Israel of “spying” on Iran from the Gulf.
Its ground forces drill was designed to show Iran can increasingly coordinate with its ground forces and use its missiles, drones and helicopters in concert.