Iran has announced the production of new combat helicopters ahead of a "massive air defense" exercise and other large-scale war games that are scheduled to take place in October and at other points throughout the year.
Iran’s armed forces and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are set to team up for a set of drills aimed at testing Tehran’s ability to intercept and destroy "different types of aircraft, choppers, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)," according to Iran’s state run Fars News Agency.
"Nearly 8,000 military personnel will be directly involved in the drill, while another 17,000 will provide logistics for the maneuvers," according to Fars.
The announcement of the war games and new weapons has been accompanied by increasingly hostile rhetoric from Iran’s military leaders, who continue to threaten "a destructive response" to any potential U.S. strike on the country’s disputed nuclear sites.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated his intention to "raze" Israel.
"Israel's leaders sometimes threaten Iran, but they know that if they do a damn thing, the Islamic Republic will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground," Khamenei was quoted as saying by Fars.
This war rhetoric runs counter to that of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, who has insisted that his country desires peace.
The October war games were announced last week by Iranian Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili, commander of Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base, where the drills will be held.
The upcoming "air defense drills will be held in a cold and mountainous region, so that the military units involved will be able to rehearse their skills in different climatic conditions," according to Fars.
The newly announced combat helicopters are expected to be used in these future war games.
The new choppers, which Iran claims are domestically produced, "can be used to carry out logistic and combat missions," according to Iranian Brig. Gen. Kioumars Heidari, the lieutenant commander of the army's ground force.
The choppers have been used in at least 15 other war games in recent months, according to Fars.
"In the last six months of the last Iranian year [ended on March 20] and the first six months of the current Iranian year [ended on September 22], we made 150 sorties of different testing and combat flights across the country and participated in 15 war games," Col. Reza Khaki, head of Iran’s drone unit, was quoted as saying on Saturday.
Other "massive war games" are schedule to take place from October through March 2014, according to IRGC Ground Force Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour.
The IRGC and various Iranian ground troops are expected to participate in the war games.
"The Ground Force programs for the [Iranian] year 1392 [March 2013-March 2014] include more war games, such as the drills of armored units in Southeastern Iran, followed by infantry exercises in the Western parts of the country and tank-patterns exercises," Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan was quoted as saying by Fars.
Iran unveiled its newest unmanned combat drone on Saturday, which military leaders claimed could detect and target enemies from afar.
Military leaders claim that "advanced equipment and systems had been installed on the helicopter, adding that the aircraft could be upgraded using more advanced equipment," Fars reported.
Iran boosted its war rhetoric over the weekend ahead of the combat drills.
"Iranian officials and commanders have warned that any enemy move, even the slightest aggression, against the Islamic Republic would be reciprocated with a destructive response and will endanger the interests of the aggressor all around the world," Fars reported on Saturday.
Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, leader of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force, said over the weekend, "Iran is now enjoying the highest level of military deterrence."
"Iran's might and power will not allow enemies to even think of an aggression against the country," Hajizadeh said.
Iran claims that it will not purchase any outside military equipment in the coming year because it "is self-sufficient in this area," according to Hajizadeh.
Iran will additionally build and deploy new warships to the Caspian Sea, military leaders said Sunday.
A "homemade destroyer" and other warships will head to the region, Fars reported.
Military leaders claim the deployment will enforce "order, security, peace, and friendship in the Caspian Sea region," according to Fars.