'30 per cent complete': Iran's 'better' substitute for S-300 may be ready in 2013
Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, a commander of the Iranian army’s air defense force, said the Bavar-373 (Belief-373) system was 30 per cent complete while speaking to reporters on the National Day of Air Defense in Tehran on Monday.
He further stressed that Iran was fully capable of maintaining the project without foreign assistance.
"We are through with developing the threat-detection capability of the system, and its sensitive parts have been manufactured in Iran," the semi-official Fars News Agency quotes Esmaili as saying.
He added, “we have no problem with supplying the missiles needed for this system."
Esmaili said he hoped the system would be finished by the end of the Iranian year, which would be March 2013, or by March 2014.
Work on Bavar-373 began as Iran concluded that the S-300 air-defense systems ordered from Russia would not be delivered. The S-300, developed by the Soviet Union, has a range of up to 150 kilometers. It can hit aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, and track up to 24 targets simultaneously.
In September 2011, Esmaili was already speaking of the domestically developed Bavar-373, which he claimed would be a “powerful rival” for the Russian surface-to-air system. Deploying up to three different types of missiles, the Iranian system would show “higher capabilities than the S-300 in detecting, identifying and destroying targets,” he said.
At least five S-300s were expected to be delivered to Iran from Russia after a contract signed in 2007. However, in September 2010, Russian then-President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree forbidding the sale of the system in line with the fourth round of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on Iran over its nuclear program.
Iran responded by filing an almost $4 billion lawsuit against Russia over what it claimed to be a breach of contract at the Geneva Court of Arbitrations in August 2011. This caused discontent in Moscow, since the contract’s value was around $900 million and Russia already said it was ready to pay Tehran $166.8 million in damages. Later, Iran would demand that the Geneva Court expand the requested damages by $3 billion.
Following the Russian ban, Iran announced in November 2010 that it had adapted another Russian-manufactured missile system to behave more like the S-300, which is widely regarded as one of the most effective ballistic and cruise missile interceptors in the world. The efficacy of this system remains unverified, as many military analysts have long dismissed Iranian claims regarding great leaps in the advancement of indigenously made military technology as exaggerated.
‘Saber rattling, military drills’
On Monday, General Esmaili also announced that all of the country's military units would participate in a major air defense exercise slated for October. The drills would be jointly conducted by the country’s regular forces and the Revolutionary Corps “in response to enemies’ threats.”
However, the US – with 25 other nations in tow – will also conduct extensive joint minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf come October as the West ratchets up the pressure on Iran over speculation that the country is trying to obtain nuclear weapons.
In a concerted effort to beef up international perceptions of their military might on Sunday, Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Mohammad Eslami said plans were in the works to install missiles on long-distance unmanned drones which were used in missile tests earlier this year, Reuters reports.
Iranian authorities say the Karrar drone has a range of 1,000 kilometers and is capable of carrying a single cruise missile or several smaller missiles, the agency reports.
Amidst the growing threat of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Esmaili said "we will use whatever we have in order to defend Iran," the ISNA news agency quotes him as saying.
"Today the main threat is an air threat, because it achieves quick results. Therefore it was felt necessary that air defenses work independently," he said. "One of our missions is being vigilant over sensitive centers like refineries and nuclear sites," Esmaili added.
Israel has long threatened to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, though its Western partners have stressed more time is necessary to hammer out a diplomatic solution. Iran maintains its uranium enrichment program is for civilian purposes.