Satellite imagery has reportedly shown that a new surface to air missile site has been constructed at Iran’s Mashhad airport.
According to investigative site Bellingcat, the development on the north side of the runway to support the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's S-300PMU-2 missiles, which have a range of 200 kilometres. The Russian-supplied S-300 missile systems have been integrated into Iran's air defence network. They were sold to Tehran after international sanctions related to its nuclear programme were lifted in 2015.
Mashhad, located in the northeast, is approximately 75 km and 170 km from the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, respectively.
"Between 2017-2018, Iran jumped the S-300 system to the airbase on three occasions which coincided with visits by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei," Bellingcat reported.
The first deployment is said to have occurred between June and July 2017 when Khamenei was speaking to the Iranian Judiciary in the city. The second deployment is said to have taken place between March and April 2018 when Khamenei addressed the Assembly of Experts during Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. And the most recent deployment occurred between July and August 2018 when the Ayatollah attended the ritual ceremony of clearing dust from the tomb of Imam Ridha, Bellingcat said.
Iran’s other active S-300PMU-2 sites are located at Bushehr, Khavar Shahr, and Esfahan.
Earlier this month, General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, warned Iran over what he called its "reckless, unsafe and escalatory" missile strikes in Syria. Last year, Tehran said it had a "specific plan to boost missile power" that includes increasing the capabilities of its ballistic and cruise missiles.