Regional media in the Middle East, including Iranian and Israeli sources, began reporting last week that Russia will soon supply the Islamic Republic with dozens of Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. Israeli reports even quote “Western intelligence officials” to make this claim.
The Iranian state agency Tasnim he wrote days ago that “Iran will soon receive 24 fourth generation twin-engine fighters, super handy and used mainly for air superiority missions”, giving some authority to the news.
The state newspaper pointed out that for years Iran has not been able to acquire new aircraft from outside countries and the last time the jets were transferred from Russia dates back to the 1990s.
The Times of Israel also recently reported the following, citing the network channel Country 12: According to Channel 12, the deal could include as many as 24 jets originally destined for Egypt, in a deal that the US sabotaged.
Moscow has therefore looked for a new potential buyer, which it would have found in Tehran. The news comes after Iranian media said in September that Tehran was considering such a purchase. Even according to Western intelligence sources, Iranian pilots are already training on the new planes, even if this news seems rather unlikely.
Even if the negotiations were in their infancy, this would indicate that their deep military ties, displayed during the war in Ukraine, based largely on Iran’s controversial supply of its “Kamikaze” drones which have been used by the Russian army in Ukraine, are also going in the opposite direction with regards to the defense supply chain.
Forbes asked the question on Thursday: Who will operate these sophisticated and advanced jets if they are bought? There will likely be a significant Russian-supervised training program…
The IRGC-AF has never operated aircraft more advanced than the Soviet-era Su-22 Fitter or Su-25 Frogfoot – former Iraqi warplanes that escaped Operation Desert Storm in Iran in 1991, which Tehran promptly confiscated. The IRGC-AF returned the Su-25s to Iraq in mid-2014 to help Baghdad fend off the threat posed by the raging Islamic State (ISIS) group.
Forbes takes further stock of the Iranian Air Force’s aging aircraft: “Aside from the purchase of Chengdu F-7 fighters from China in the 1980s, Iran has made only one significant fighter purchase since 1979, in 1990, when it bought MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters and Su-24 Fencer bombers from the Soviet Union for the IRIAF”. In short, weapons that are certainly not very advanced, especially the Chengdu
Therefore, any transfer of advanced fighters could see the rare case of Russian advisers training IRGC pilots, and by itself, to build a strong and modern air defense, it is not enough just to buy some fighters, you have to build and train a whole complex network of communication, control, sighting, etc. Meanwhile, the US and UK have continued to tighten sanctions on Iran’s defense sector, especially in light of drone deliveries that appear to be underway in connection with the war in Ukraine.
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