Iran’s Purported Counter-Hijacking Record

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps counter-hijacking drills, January 2017.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps counter-hijacking drills, January 2017.

This statistic indicates a 100 percent success rate of the IRGC operations.”

Since 1984, the U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a leading state sponsor of terrorism.  Iran not only funds proxy militias aimed at destabilizing regional states, but also sponsors many terror groups that engage in bombings, assassinations, and hijackings.  In the official Iranian regime narrative, none of this is terrorism, but rather legitimate “resistance,” which Iranian diplomats argue it is their right to support.  Here, the Iranian government simply takes advantage of the absence of any international consensus definition about what constitutes terrorism.

Post-revolutionary Iran has also experienced terrorism.  In the chaotic first years of the revolution, groups such as the Mujahedin al-Khalq conducted both assassinations and bombings targeting regime officials.  These often maimed and killed innocent civilians, however.  The excerpted article from the Iranian Defense Ministry’s press outlet, Holy Defense News Agency, provides a brief history of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked Aviation Protection Corps.  It reports that the Aviation Protection Corps has foiled 128 attempted hijackings over the past 34 years, more than 20 percent of which occurred in the air.  The article lacks clarity however as hijacking and terrorism was a far greater problem in Iran in the 1980s, but the statistics reported in the excerpt did not begin until 1988.  There has been very little mention of domestic hijacking attempts in Iran since then.  If there have been 128 hijacking episodes since 1988, it suggests there may be significant discord and continued attempts at domestic terrorism, even if these go unreported.   That the Aviation Protection Corps now operates on 19 airlines and in 67 airports suggests that the fear of hijacking remains a concern.


“Khansisazi 128 Mavarad Aghdam beh Havapeymarbayi Tawset Sepah (Neutralization of 128 Attempted Air Hijackings by the Revolutionary Guards),” Holy Defense News Agency (Iranian defense ministry’s press outlet), 29 December 2021.

Western countries have dubbed it the “Iron Guard”, but in Iran it is referred to as the Aviation Protection Corps. The Aviation Protection Corps is a unit that was formed in January 1988 by the order of Imam Khomeini to the then-commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Since the IRGC took over the responsibility [for aviation security], it has foiled 128 hijacking attempts. Of these, 100 episodes were cases in which the saboteurs were identified and arrested on the ground and 28 included interference and [attempted] air piracy while flying.  This statistic indicates a 100 percent success rate of the IRGC operations in dealing with hijacking. These efforts have come to fruition while the Flight Safety Unit has not given a single martyr in connection with the assigned mission, although it has suffered 77 martyrs from other reasons, such as during the Holy Defense, plane crashes and the defense of the Shrines…. Today, the Aviation Protection Corps has reached such a position due to its 33 years of experience in protecting flight safety that some countries want to have Iran’s experience in this field; the Aviation Protection Corps provides security and safety services to 19 domestic airlines at 67 airports in the country.

Image Information:

Image: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps counter-hijacking drills, January 2017.
Source: Hamshahri Online,