Jerusalem – Iran launched its largest air force exercise this past week.

The air exercise is part of an effort to introduce new indigenous platforms and systems and protect nuclear facilities. They said the five-day exercise, titled “Seal of the Prophets,” began last Sunday and would integrate operations by the regular air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

“The Iranian Air Force and IRGC will hold the largest air exercise in the history of the country,” Iranian Air Defense Commander Brig. Gen. Ahmed Miqani said Nov. 21.

Mr. Miqani told a news conference that Seal of the Prophets is taking place in central and western Iran and focus on air space protection and air defense. He said the exercise tested new systems, including air defense and electronic warfare. He said Iran has deployed air defense batteries around its nuclear facilities.

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“The Air Defense Command is responsible for sensitive installations in the country, including nuclear facilities and will shoot down any plane that violates Iranian air space,” Mr. Miqani said. “This week’s air defense maneuvers will be held with the intention of protecting the country’s nuclear facilities.”

The exercise would also seek to enhance interoperability between fighter jets of the regular air force and IRGC. They said Seal of the Prophets would also test integration of operations by combat and reconnaissance platforms.

“Our unit will be in charge of the maneuver, but there will be units from IRGC and the Basij militia,” Mr. Miqani said.

Seal of the Prophet would contain three stages and envisioned an attack by an unnamed enemy, officials said. They said the exercise would test Russian-origin air defense systems, including the TOR-M1 and Pantsyr-S1.

Iran has been awaiting the longer-range S-300 system from Moscow. Mr. Miqani said Iran would test S-300 interceptors, but did not elaborate.

“In various maneuvers, new and modern missile networks will be used and evaluated, including the advanced S-300 missiles, for which production capability exists in Iran,” Mr. Miqani said.

IRGC has asserted that Iran reached the capability to defend against any Israeli air strike. IRGC Air Force Chief Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said the military has developed an air defense umbrella that combined surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and fighter jets.

“Be assured that in case of aggression, the Zionist F-15 and F-16s will be trapped by our air defense and destroyed,” Mr. Hajizadeh said. “And, if one of their aircraft manages to escape Iran’s air defense, the bases from which these aircraft took off will be struck by our destructive ground to ground missiles.”

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.