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Iran unveils 'improved' radar air defence system

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran unveiled on Saturday what authorities said was a locally upgraded radar system with a range of 400 km (250 miles) that could help defend against cruise and ballistic missiles and drones.

The announcement comes at a time of rising tension between Iran and United States. Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June. Tehran says the drone was over its territory, but Washington says it was in international airspace.

State television showed the Falaq, a mobile radar and a vehicle housing a control room, which it said was an improved version of the Gamma, a system that military experts said was of Russian origin.

Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, though concerns about its long-range ballistic missile programme contributed to Washington last year exiting the pact that Iran sealed with world powers in 2015 to rein in its nuclear ambitions in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.

“This system has high capabilities and can detect all types of cruise and ballistic missiles and drones,” Brigadier General Alireza Sabahifard, commander of the regular army’s air defences, was quoted as saying by semi-official news agency Mehr.

Sabahifard said the Falaq was a locally overhauled version of a system which had been out of operation for a long time, Mehr reported. He did not give the system’s country of origin.

The Falaq is a phased-array radar system which can be incorporated into Iran’s larger integrated air defence, which includes an S-300 surface-to-air missile system that Russia delivered in 2016, state-run Press TV said.

“The (Falaq) system was developed in order to counter sanctions restricting access to spare parts of a previously foreign-developed system,” Press TV said on its website.

U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Tehran after pulling out of the nuclear deal, which its other signatories are struggling to maintain as Washington also lobbies to establish a maritime security coalition to safeguard shipping in the Gulf in a related standoff with Iran over oil supplies.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; editing by John Stonestreet)

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