Just as Ahmadinejad declared Iran’s armed forces would “chop off the hands” of any power daring to attack his country…

…Two Iranian Air Force jets collide in mid air up above a big military parade in Tehran which was intended to be a glorious send-off to the UN for the Iranian President.

The proud military parade, which included a march-past, a line of Shehab-3 missiles and an air force fly-past, was planned to give Ahmadinejad a dazzling send-off for New York and add steel to his UN Assembly speech Wednesday.

One plane was Iran’s only airborne warning and control system (AWACS) for coordinating long-distance aerial operations.

Dubbed “Simorgh” (a flying creature of Iranian fable which performs wonders in mid-flight), the AWACS’ appearance, escorted by fighter jets, was to have been the climax for the Iranian Air force’s fly-past over the parade. Instead, it collided with one of escorting planes, a US-made F-5E, and both crashed to the ground in flames. All seven crewmen were killed. (Well, that was dazzling, all right)

Eye witnesses reported that the flaming planes landed on the mausoleum burial site of the Islamic revolution’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini, a national shrine. According to Western observers, no distress signals came from either cockpit indicating that the collision and explosions were sudden and fast.

DEBKAfile‘s military sources say the disaster was a serious blow to the Iranian Air Force not long after its first and only AWACS went into service in April 2008. It was a renovated version of the Russian Ilyushin 76, part of Saddam Hussein’s air force before it was transferred to Iran in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

Tehran hired Russian technicians to carry out renovations and install up-to-date radar. At the launching ceremony of the upgraded AWACS, Air Force commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Miqani boasted its new radar systems were made in Iran and able to spot any airplane or missile at a distance of 1,000 kilometers from Iran’s borders. (Not any more, I guess)

The loss of this airborne control system has left Iran’s air force and air and missile defenses without “electronic eyes” for surveillance of the skies around its borders. (So much for chopping off the hands of the enemy) DEBKA


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