0957 GMT February 21, 2020
The Great Prophet 12 drill entered its final chapter in the general area on Saturday, with IRGC chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari hoping that “the enemies have more than ever grasped the power of our response."
"This was a response to allegations made by the enemies who should know that the defense capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran are deterrent, and as the Leader [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] has said, 'if they try to hit us once, they will definitely be hit 10 times more'," Jafari told reporters.
“With these exercises, our enemies will realize more than ever how devastating our response would be to any move by them,” he added.
Television showed amphibious forces landing on Iran’s Persian Gulf island of Qeshm during the exercises, in which naval vessels, helicopters, drones, rocket launchers and commando units also took part.
Qeshm, the largest island in the Persian Gulf, is located near the Strait of Hormuz through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil passes.
The US aircraft carrier John C. Stennis entered the Persian Gulf on Friday and was shadowed by IRGC Guards speedboats, according to Reuters. Witnesses of the media organization also saw an Iranian drone flying nearby.
In an apparent comment on the arrival of the Stennis, Jafari told Iranian television: “They’ve come, pretending to ensure the Persian Gulf states’ security ... But it is Iran which has to provide security for the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and our friends and brotherly countries on its southern coast”.
The IRGC Ground Force’s chief Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said the drills take place on a strategic and defensive level proportionate to the enemies’ potential threats.
“For the first time, the drills incorporate an offensive operation in the Islamic Republic’s defensive doctrine," he said during a press conference.
“On the operational level, these maneuvers are offensive, meaning should the enemy seek to resort to threat and its implementation, it will prompt us to turn thoroughly aggressive and offensive, and pursue targets deep inside the enemy front,” Pakpour noted.
The goal, the commander said, is to "crystallize a precise and realistic image in the enemy’s mind of our deterrence and defensive equations.”
"The enemy should make allowances in its calculations for the fact that our defense is a combination of defensive and offensive engagement, with more emphasis placed on the offensive side," he said.
Pakpour said the IRGC Ground Force’s past experience in fighting terrorism, securing borders, and the experience resulting from recent wars has helped shape new defensive doctrines.
The annual exercise enlists the Ground Force’s elite units. They include the rapid response unit, the Special Forces, commandos, combat and reconnaissance drones, the electronic warfare unit, engineering corps, and the Zolfaqar fast patrol craft.
Various attack, transport, and airdrop helicopters are flown during the event.
According to Tasnim news agency, the Cobra gunships deployed in the last stage have been equipped with enhanced thermal cameras.
The equipment, it said, has been enhanced with laser rangefinder and is capable of tracing and detecting targets in various environmental conditions, including sheer darkness, fog, smoke, and dust.
The drills also included amphibious operation and seizing of bridgeheads along the coastline.
Press TV, Reuters and Tasnim contributed to this story.