TEHRAN (Dispatches) – The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on Thursday launched a massive military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz aimed at testing and showcasing the capabilities of dozens of locally-made UAVs, including armed drones.
The drill, codenamed ‘Towards Al-Quds 1’, was the largest of its kind to have taken place ever in the country. It tested dozens of RQ-170 UAVs developed by Iran on the basis of a U.S. Sentinel drone captured eight years ago.
It marked the first such exercise testing large numbers of drones in simulated combat situation. IRGC Aerospace Division chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Iran has the largest armed UAV fleet in the region.
Iran has the biggest collection of captured or downed American and Israeli drones, including the U.S. MQ1, MQ9, Shadow, ScanEagle, and RQ-170 as well as the Israeli regime’s Hermes, he said in November.
Iran’s military has increasingly been turning to unmanned aerial drones to defend the country’s airspace and attack its enemies.
According to Iranian officials, the country’s UAVs can remain airborne for as long as 48 hours, be controlled remotely and strike targets as far as 1,000 kilometers from Iran’s borders.
Iran has already used drones to target Daesh facilities in Syria and PJAK terrorists in northern Iraq.
Iran’s various drone models, many still under development, include the Karrar, Mohajer, Fotros and Saegheh. In January 2016, an Iranian drone flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and also photographed a French naval vessel.
Tehran captured a Sentinel in 2011 while it was in its airspace, apparently on a mission to spy on the country’s nuclear sites, media in the United States reported.
In 2014, Iran shot down an Israeli drone near a nuclear facility after it flew in from a northern country that was once part of the Soviet Union.
"Sanctions bore fruit,” IRGC deputy chief Brigadier General Hussein Salami said ironically Thursday, commenting on the military exercise.
"Despite the empty and satanic dreams of the U.S. and other ill-wishers of the Iranian nation, we witnessed tens of modern and advanced domestic RQ-170s and other types of combat drones in flight during a major drill and unique offensive operation,” he added.
Salami drones participating in the drill successfully destroyed their targets.