July 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iranian Air Force Conducts Training Exercise

July 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iranian Air Force Conducts Training Exercise

Latest Developments

The Iranian air force began an annual air force drill on July 23, a week after the United States announced it was deploying additional assets around the Strait of Hormuz in response to Iran’s growing threat to international shipping in the area. The training exercise, known as Fadaeian Velyat-11, or Devotees of the Supreme Leader-11 in Farsi, has unfolded on 11 air bases throughout the country, including Bandar Abbas, located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz. The exercise consists of 90 aircraft, including fighter jets, bombers, and drones. According to Iranian media, Su-24 and F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers successfully destroyed a ground target during a nighttime operation. The air force also deployed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance, electronic warfare training, and destroying targets.

Expert Analysis

“Iran’s Su-24s and F-4s are certainly not the world’s most advanced aircraft, but the Islamic Republic’s increasingly formidable drone, surface-to-air missile, and ballistic missile arsenal represents a genuine challenge, especially if these different systems are integrated with one another.” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Iranian exercises such as these are frequent and are a key element in Iranian efforts to increase pressure on Israel, the U.S., and our partners in the Middle East. They also provide a clear validation for U.S. force posture movements, such as increased aircraft and ship deployments, which provide a clear signal to our allies and partners that the U.S. is committed to combating Iran and supporting regional security.” — RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation and FDD Senior Fellow

U.S. Bolsters Its Force

In May, White House spokesperson John Kirby announced that the Department of Defense would bolster America’s “defensive posture in the Arabian Gulf” following Iran’s increased harassment of international commercial shipping in the area. Last week, the Pentagon sent the USS Thomas Hudner guided-missile destroyer, F-16s, F-35s, and the BATAAN Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) to the region.

Iran’s Ongoing Threats to Commercial Shipping

The increased U.S. deployments came in response to attempts by Iranian forces to seize the Bahamian-flagged Richmond Voyager and the Marshall Islands-flagged TRF Moss oil tanker on July 5. The USS McFaul guide-missile destroyer thwarted both seizure attempts.

On June 5, the McFaul and the UK Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster prevented Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fast attack vessels from seizing a cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz. On May 3, Iranian forces seized the empty, Panamanian-flagged tanker Niovi in the Strait of Hormuz, surrounding it with speedboats and diverting it to Iranian territorial waters. Six days earlier, Iranian commandos descended onto the deck of the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet from a helicopter and took control of the vessel.

Related Analysis

U.S. Boosts Middle East Combat Power to Deter Iranian Maritime Aggression,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Hijacking Attempt Thwarted by U.S. and British Navies,” FDD Flash Brief

Securing Contested Waters: A Conversation with NAVCENT Commander Vice Adm. Cooper,” FDD Event


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Israel Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy