Iran bombs mock Israeli navy base in military exercise

Iran watchers conclude it was Eilat’s naval facility, while official Iranian media did not label it nor issue any threats against Israel, unlike its joint drill last year.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Iranian forces holding military drills in the Straits of Hormuz successfully targeted a mock-up of an Israeli base Saturday, according to Iranian media accounts.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) publicized a video clip in which a UAV can be seen being launched from an Iranian Hengam-class landing ship called IRIS Lavan and dropping an object.

The footage then changes to show what looks like a computer-generated image of a small, coastal base with a ship in dock, before changing back into a real-life view of a bomb hitting one building, followed immediately by a drone smashing into an adjacent structure and exploding in a ball of fire.

The model of the ship remained unscathed in the practice attack, which is part of a joint naval, air and ground exercise called Zolfaghar-1401 that began Thursday in the Gulf of Oman.

Throwing into possible doubt what viewers saw, an Iranian-American with the Twitter handle Mehdi H. who uses open-source intelligence to publicize Iranian military affairs, tweeted Saturday that the IRNA video is a “mixture of two different Iranian drone operations. The one launched from IRIS Lavan is an Ababil, but the one hitting the target is an Arash loitering munition.”

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It was pointed out in the discussion thread that the target looked similar to the Eilat naval base in southern Israel, and the ship was a dummy Sa’ar 6-class corvette.

In a military exercise in December 2021, Iranian forces carried out a ballistic missile attack on a model of Israel’s nuclear complex in Dimona. Tehran made it clear that it was a warning to the Jewish state, in contrast to this weekend’s drill, where the naval base was not officially identified.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps chief Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami told state television at the time that “The military exercise… is a serious warning to Zionist regime officials… Make the slightest mistake, we will cut off their hand.”

According to Iranian daily Ettela’at, the Zolfaghar exercise also included bombing runs on land and sea of the air force’s old American Phantom F-4E planes from the time of the Shah and Russian Su-24 jets, which were mostly manufactured in the 1980s.

The air defense system was also tested, with a “hostile” drone force identified and destroyed in the drill, said the paper. The Iranian military had held a joint exercise with 150 unmanned aircraft, include missile drones and ‘suicide’ drones this past August as well.

Western intelligence reports that Tehran is on the verge of a massive upgrade to its air force, striking a deal with Moscow for 24 of its modern Su-35 Sukhoi jets, cruise missile-carrying fighters that according to the Russians can reach a speed of Mach 2.5 and have a range of over 3,500 km, making Israel quickly and easily within striking distance of Iran. Iranian pilots are already training on the jets in Russia, said the report.