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Thousands of Iranian Troops Will Participate in 'Biggest Ever' Military Drill

Iran has initiated a massive week-long air defense drill amidst growing international pressure over its nuclear ambitions and last week's firing on a U.S. drone they claim entered Iranian air space.

Iran will test its air defense system, named "Mersad," meaning ambush in Persian. Drill spokesman Shahrokh Shahram told Iran's Press TV the military exercise was both a "strong warning to those threatening Iran" and a symbol of regional security, according to Reuters.

While Iran routinely conducts such exercises, the Iranian government's official English-language news outlet dubbed the endeavor the biggest military drill in Iran's history.

The defense exercise includes around 8,000 troops covering roughly 330,000 square miles across Iran, equipped with fighter jets, bombers, unmanned aircraft, and missile systems. Mersad has the power to hit a flying object up to 30 miles away, reports The Associated Press.

Originally planned for October, the drill was pushed back for unknown reasons, but comes at a time of increasing animosity between Iran and the West. Iran's hyped-up defense preparation mirrors joint military exercises by the United States and Israel to prepare for a potentially nuclear Iran, though the Gulf country insists its program is for peaceful purposes.

(Sophia Jones is an intern with NPR News.)

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