Iran Unveils New Anti-Aircraft System

New array could complicate potential strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, expert says

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad / AP
September 21, 2012

Iranian military leaders unveiled a new missile defense system Friday that is built to destroy "aggressive" U.S. aircraft, according to reports.

The system, dubbed Ra’d, "has been built in a bid to confront U.S. aircraft and can hit targets 50km in distance and 75,000 feet in altitude," Iranian General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the nation’s Aerospace Force Brigadier, told Iran’s Fars News Agency Friday.

The new system is evidence that Iran’s military capabilities are becoming more sophisticated as it gets closer to building nuclear weapons capabilities, foreign policy experts told the Free Beacon.

"This means the clock is ticking down" on a preemptive strike on Iran by the U.S. or Israel, said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. "With the more progress they make with their missiles, they may take the option off the table for us."

While Iran’s nuclear ambitions have received widespread coverage in the Western press, its growing military capabilities on other fronts have not drawn as much attention.

"Iranian engineers are talented and those who don’t work on the nuclear program are very good at reverse engineering" Russian weaponry and other systems, Rubin said.

The Ra’d system was built in Iran, Fars reported, just like a recently announced cruise missile that is reportedly capable of reaching any Israeli city.

Iran’s Air Defense Unit released to Fars specific information regarding the new missile defense sytsem’s capabilities:

The highly-advanced home-made Ra'd (Thunder) air defense system is equipped with 'Taer' (Bird) missiles, which can trace and hit targets 50km in distance and 75,000f in altitude.

The announcement was made amid an Iranian military parade Friday. The Mehr news agency also reported on the new system.

Iranian Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by Fars as saying the defense system is being "mass-produced":

"The Ra'd air-defense system, which is more advanced than the Buckeye system has recently been developed and is now being mass-produced," Jafari told reporters in a press conference on Sunday.

The defense system could complicate a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, Rubin said.

"It forces Israel to rush out any decision" it might make regarding a strike, Rubin said.

While Western officials usually view Iran’s military bluster with skepticism, Rubin said that the increased announcements could be a sign that Iran is serious about responding to Western threats.

"Whether they’re exaggerated or not, the Israelis know the direction the Iranians are going and will be forced to play their hands," he explained. "You can only hold off so long."