Iran is conducting air-defense drills this week, according to pro-regime media in Tehran. The drills are part of the “Guardians of Velayat Sky-1401” air-defense exercise that took place Tuesday.
According to Iranian military officials, part of the drills involved “specialized air defenses” and also the use of offensive and defensive electronic warfare (EW) and cyber operations.
This type of defense is meant to illustrate Iran’s abilities to become a modern military power, despite being under sanctions. The drills come amid tensions with Israel and the region and Iran’s continuing enrichment of uranium.
Although details about the kinds of technology Iran has rolled out are scant, Tehran’s publishing of information on these sensitive topics indicates that it wants its adversaries to believe it has sophisticated cyber capabilities.
“They practiced electronic warfare and cyberwarfare in order to counter electronic attacks,” an Iranian media report said.
Why is Iran focusing so much on electronic warfare in air defense?
Iran says it has developed a “powerful indigenous electronic-warfare system” and that this is an important feature of the latest drill.
“By creating electronic disturbances on radars and air-defense detection and identification systems at different heights and layers by disruptive drones, the stability, survivability and continuity of operations of systems, including radars and signal collection systems, were evaluated as one of the main components of air defense in an environment contaminated by electronic warfare,” the report said.
This long, convoluted sentence, published by the pro-regime Fars News Agency, means that Iran is testing its systems against the kinds of disruptions it thinks it will face in a war, and it has tested its defenses against being “disrupted” by drones and also tested its radars. The words “survivability” and “continuity” mean that Iran’s various systems can survive a simulated electronic-warfare attack and continue operations.
This is an issue for Iran because in 2020, Iranian air defenses downed a civilian Ukrainian commercial aircraft, killing many people – the air defenses mistakenly thought it was an enemy plane. Iran’s air defenses were so incompetent that they didn’t even need to be “disrupted.” Instead, they simply didn’t work well.
Clearly, Iran wants the region to believe that its current systems have improved. Iran is also seeking to send air defenses to Syria, and it can’t send air defenses if they don’t work.
Iran used drones to test its own defenses and to monitor how its systems worked, according to reports. Tehran has sought to improve its radars as well. Combining these systems with EW and cyber is supposed to make them more effective and add redundancy.
It’s difficult to judge if Iran’s systems work as well as Tehran says they do. What matters is that Iran wants everyone to think the systems work.