Reuters:Iran's Supreme Leader has ordered a reorganisation of its air force in order to boost defence capability, a senior commander was quoted as saying on Saturday.
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran's Supreme Leader has ordered a reorganisation of its air force in order to boost defence capability, a senior commander was quoted as saying on Saturday.
Iran's dispute with the West over its nuclear programme has drawn speculation of possible Israeli or U.S. military action, even though new U.S. President Barack Obama says he is willing to start direct talks with Tehran.
Iran rejects Western accusations its nuclear work is aimed at making bombs and has warned it would hit back against Israel and U.S. interests in the region if it is attacked.
Brigadier-General Ahmad Mighani said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had ordered that the air force be split into an air force and an air defence unit.
"With the division of the air force into two parts…the Islamic Republic's armed forces will include ground forces, the air force, an air defence unit and the navy," the official IRNA news agency quoted Mighani as telling a news conference.
The goal was to raise combat and air defence capability, he said, without giving details.
Iran often stages war games or tests weapons to show its determination to counter any attack by its foes. Western analysts say it is difficult to assess Iran's claims of advances in its arms as few details are usually released.
Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar on Wednesday said Iran had developed a long-range, anti-aircraft missile system that could pursue and hit several targets simultaneously.
Iran is estimated to have 280 combat aircraft, including Russian-made MiG 29 aircrafts, although only 80 percent or less may be operational, military analysts say.
The United States says it wants diplomacy to end the nuclear row, but neither Washington nor Israel have ruled out military action if that fails.
Energy experts are concerned any conflict in Iran could lead to a shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway between the Gulf and the Sea of Oman through which about 40 percent of the world's traded oil is shipped.