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Iran Defense Chief Vows Continued Missile Efforts, New Fighter Jet

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami says Tehran will unveil a new jet fighter on August 22.

Iran’s defense minister says the country will continue to focus efforts on developing missile capabilities and will next week unveil a new fighter jet amid U.S. efforts to curb Tehran’s weapons programs and regional influence.

"Our top priority has been development of our missile program,” Brigadier General Amir Hatami was on August 18 quoted by Fars news agency as saying.

“We are in a good position in this field, but we need to develop it,” he added.

Hatami said the new jet will be presented to the public on as part of efforts to celebrate National Defense Industry Day on August 22 and that “people will see it fly.”

Iran’s air force has struggled to build capabilities because of international sanctions and embargoes against the country.

It has been forced to rely on aging U.S. strike aircraft acquired before relations broke with the 1979 Iranian revolution. It also has several Russian jets in its inventory.

Because of the restrictions, Tehran has worked to develop a domestic arms industry, and in 2013, it unveiled the Qaher 313, a domestically built fighter jet. But some experts at the time expressed doubts about its viability.

Meanwhile, the country’s navy also announced on August 18 that it has mounted a domestically developed advanced-defensive weapons system onto a warship for the first time.

The semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi as saying that "coastal and sea testing of the short-range defense Kamand system was concluded successfully, and said this system was mounted...on a warship and will be mounted on a second ship soon."

The announcement comes as the U.S. military has said it has seen increased Iranian naval activity, including in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic artery for oil shipments.

In a move apparently designed to send a message to Washington, Iran on August 2 launched major naval exercises in the Persian Gulf involving more than 100 vessels, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Ranges Of Iran's missiles
Ranges Of Iran's missiles

The timing of the drills is unusual, as Iran's navy usually conducts annual exercises later in autumn, officials said.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May that he was pulling out of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and reimposing sanctions on Tehran, the first batch of which took effect on August 7.

The United States maintains that Tehran actions, including the testing of ballistic missiles, violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear agreement. The administration also accuses Iran of arming Yemen's Shi'ite Houthi rebels in their war against Yemen's Saudi-backed government -- a charge Tehran denies.

With reporting by Fars and Reuters