Iran has launched underground ballistic missiles as part of an exercise involving a mock aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz, state television reported.

It was the latest barrage in a drill that the previous day saw two American bases temporarily go on alert over the launches.

Drone footage captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard showed two missiles blasting out from covered positions in what appeared to be a desert plateau in central Iran, with debris flying up in the air in their wake.

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Missiles are fired in a Revolutionary Guard military exercise (Sepahnews via AP)
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Missiles are fired in a Revolutionary Guard military exercise (Sepahnews via AP)

The launches took place on Wednesday, said General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard’s aerospace division. He told state television it was first time the Guard had done this, though the paramilitary force is known to have vast underground bases hiding its ballistic missile arsenal.

Separately, drones targeted the bridge of the fake aircraft carrier, according to the state TV report. The broadcaster did not immediately air footage of the launches or the drone attack, nor did it identify the missiles used in the drill.

However, the drill clearly meant to send a message to the United States.

A semi-official news agency close to the Guard published a graphic overnight that photoshopped the image of an American carrier into the shape of a coffin with a set of crosshairs on it, with a caption quoting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledging to seek revenge for the US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in January.

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The Revolutionary Guard’s helicopter fires a missile (Sepahnews via AP)
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The Revolutionary Guard’s helicopter fires a missile (Sepahnews via AP)

The drill – and the American response to it – underlined the lingering threat of military conflict between Iran and the US after a series of escalating incidents last year led to the January drone strike. Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American forces in Iraq.

While the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed both Iran and the US for months, there has been a growing confrontation as America argues to extend a years-long UN weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October. A recent incident over Syria involving an American jet fighter approaching an Iranian passenger plane has also renewed tensions.

Iranian commandos fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the replica in the footage of the exercise called “Great Prophet 14”. Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on a target drone near the port city of Bandar Abbas.

State television footage also showed a variety of missiles being fired from fast boats, trucks, mobile launchers and a helicopter, some targeting the fake carrier. A commander said the Guard, a force answerable only to Khamenei, planned to fire “long-range ballistic missiles” as well during the drill.

Ballistic missile fire detected from the drill resulted in American troops being put on alert at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, the military said. Troops sought cover during that time.

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