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Iran shows off underground air base with Russia's Sukhoi jets

In the first public display of an underground air base, Iran presented missile-mounted warplanes and bombers at a moment of growing concerns over its controversial drone deliveries to Russia.  
Part of an underground airbase is seen in a news report by the state broadcaster aired Feb. 7, 2023.

The Iranian Army's Air Force unveiled on Tuesday what it said was a vast military facility built "hundreds of meters" beneath a mountain in an undisclosed location in the country.

In a detailed report, the state broadcaster aired videos of the center, dubbed Eagle 44, where fighter jets, bombers and drones are being stored, as they were said to be practicing thwarting enemy attacks on a regular basis.   

Military officials have said fighter jets at the facility are equipped with cruise missiles, and pinpointing bombs that could penetrate into the very heart of the enemy soil. The center, according to the report, is entirely resistant to American bunker busters and remains hidden from reconnaissance missions.  

At times of a full-blown war, the facility is also said to be capable of maintaining operations "for months" thanks to its abundant fuel and ammunition storage supplying the warplanes, on which "homemade" and "radar-evading" cruise missiles Yasin and Ghaem are mounted.   

Another missile, Asef, is also carried by Russian Sukhoi 24 warplanes at the base, the report added. It remained unclear how many of those jets are kept at the center, but last month, Iran's state media said Tehran was close to obtaining two dozen advanced Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from its ally, Russia.   

Yet, ahead of the ceremony, the Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri claimed that his country was currently capable of meeting 90% of its military demands. "Our equipment does have numerous clients," he said, in comments covered by the hard-line Tasnim news agency.  

"The Zionist regime's threats are only rhetoric," Bagheri declared, noting that Israel has become "encircled by the resistance movement, which is one of the fruits of the Islamic Revolution," the commander said, using Iran's moniker for armed proxy networks it supports and funds across the Middle East.  

The unveiling of the airbase came only two weeks after the US and Israel conducted "Juniper Oak," their "most significant joint military exercise to date.

And the Iranian state TV report said the air base was the country's "message" to that very joint drill from "the unchallenged air force power in the region."  

At the ceremony, Bagheri warned regional countries against aiding and hosting an "aggression" on the Islamic Republic. "They will be targeted heavily alongside the Zionist regime," he said. 

The latest muscle flexing came at the height of international pressure on Tehran over its supply of drones to Russia being flown in the war on Ukraine. Tehran has vehemently denied such deliveries, but has admitted that a limited number were shipped before the conflict broke out.   

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Tehran and Moscow were working together toward a project in Russia to produce thousands of Iran-designed drones. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani has dismissed the report as "fake news." 


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