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Iran claims it drove away US aircraft from area near military maneuvers

Velayat 94 Military exercise 16 by Mbazri (Erfan Kouchari/WikiCommons)
September 14, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s military says it drove away U.S. aircraft that flew close to an area where a three-day military exercise was being conducted near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Tehran’s military said on September 11 that its air force detected three U.S. aircraft after they entered Iran’s air defense identification zone.

The U.S. craft were identified as a P-8 airplane, an MQ-9 drone, and an RQ-4 drone.

After “ignoring warnings by Iran’s defense systems to keep away from the drill zone” the aircraft were tracked by an Iranian drone before “they changed course and left the zone,” Tehran’s military added.

The Pentagon’s Central Command did not immediately comment on the report.

Iran’s annual Zolfaghar 99 exercises, which began on September 10, are conducted in more than 1.2 million square kilometers in the Strait of Hormuz, Makran coast, Oman Sea, and the north Indian Ocean, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.

In June 2019, a U.S. drone was shot down by Iran after it said the craft had violated the country’s airspace.

U.S. officials at the time said the RQ-4A Global Hawk was flying over international waters when it was destroyed. Iranian forces later displayed the wreckage of the downed drone on state television.

Tensions have consistently been high between Tehran and Washington since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed crippling financial sanctions on Iran. Washington also accuses Iran of financing extremist actions in the region — a charge Tehran denies.

During the second day of the Zolfaghar 99 maneuvers, the Iranian Navy deployed domestically manufactured military equipment, including a submarine and a cruise missile.

The submarine, dubbed the Fateh — Persian for “Conqueror” — was seen in action for the first time and sailed up the Indian Ocean, the military said on its website.

The near 600-ton submarine is armed with torpedoes, mines, and cruise missiles.

According to Iranian media, it can remain underwater at a depth of more than 200 meters for up to 35 days.