Babylon & Beyond

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MIDDLE EAST: Iran, Lebanon, Jordan upgrade air power

February 16, 2009 |  7:18 am


Iranian media quoted Air Force chief Brig. Gen. Ahmad Mighani as telling reporters that the Islamic Republic has set up a new military branch devoted exclusively to air defenses that will be in charge of guarding Iran's nuclear sites from potential Israeli or U.S. air attacks.

The branch, called the Name of the Holy Prophet Command, will draw together all the antiaircraft systems, surveillance gear, radar and missiles from the country's regular military branch as well as the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps under one umbrella with a mandate "to enhance and expand combat capabilities of the country's air defense unit," said Mighani, according to a report published on the website of Iran's English-language Press TV news channel.

"To counter the enemy's advanced military equipment, we should be equipped with state-of-the-art air defense technology," Mighani said.

Iran isn't the only country in the Middle East to make plans to upgrade its air power. So have two of Israel's neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan.

A Lebanese military official told The Times last month that Russia has begun training its pilots operate a batch of 10 MIG fighter jets Moscow is donating to Beirut.

Meanwhile, Jordan is set to take delivery of 20 F-16 fighter jets from Holland and Belgium, according to Defense Industry Daily.

Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pressed Kuwait to buy a couple dozen Rafale fighter jets, and he urged the Omanis to replace their aging fleet with French planes.

Even Iraq, with a severely dilapidated air force that has yet to recover from three decades of war and sanctions, is on track to take delivery of an undisclosed number of South Korean-made T/A-50 Golden Eagle lightweight fighter jets.

With world economies in a seeming free fall, look for more defense firms hustling to sell their wares to whichever countries with cash in hand.

-- Borzou Daragahi

Photo: South Korean-made Golden Eagle fighter jet of the type under consideration by Iraq.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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