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Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force (former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Air Force, aka. IRGC Air Force; aka Sepah Pasdaran Air Force), headquartered in Tehran, Iran, is administratively separate from the regular Air Force. The IRGC Air Force was founded in 1986 when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni ordered the creation of three separate branches of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp. The IRGC Air Force reportedly provides close air support and lift capabilities for the IRGC's rapid reaction units. It also operates Iran's inventory of short and medium range ballistic missiles.

The commander of the air force of the Islamic revolution guards corps (IRGC) brigadier general Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf said in September 1999 that the IRGC air force is to manufacture helicopter-gunships equipped with advanced weapons, by the end of the third five-year economic, social and cultural development plan (2000-2004). Speaking to IRNA, he said that the IRGC's air force also is engaged in manufacturing a 15-seat helicopter which was expected to be test-flown by the end of 2004.

Another helicopter named "Shahed x5" which has successfully completed its test flights has been entirely designed and produced by experts with the IRGC air force, he said. The IRGC's air force is to manufacture some 20 shahed x5 helicopters by the end of the third five-year economic, social and cultural development plan ( 2000-2004). The new helicopter is suitable for Iran's climate and can fly at an altutude of 17,500 feet from the sea level, he said. The Shahed x5 helicopter can be used in different situations, concluded the commander.

With the exception of naval and missile forces, Iran's military modernization was stagnant in the new century. In reaction to OIF, Iran publicly announced implementation of an asymmetric strategy emphasizing lightly armed but numerous guerrilla forces. The only addition to Iran's air and air defense inventory was a new Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Air Force squadron of Su-25 close air support aircraft. The IRGC AF added seven Iraqi Air Force Su-25s that fled to Iran in January 1991, during Operation Desert Storm. A total of some 15-16 such planes were believed to be based at Shiraz, in eastern Iran, though how many of them were airworthy is unclear.

An unknown number of "new" Su-25s were delivered to the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps Air Force (IRGCAF) in 2003. Where these Frogfoots originated from was unclear. Since the number was said to include advanced Su-25T and Su-25UBK aircraft reports suggested that these aircraft could have come from Russia or Ukraine, two countries Iran had significant contact with during the 1990s especially regarding aircraft manufacture.

In July 2014 seven Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes operated by the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (out of 7 or 10, depending on sources, believed to be operational in Iran) arrived at Baghdad to join the war against ISIS militants (the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The aircraft (three Su-25UBKM and four Su-25KM jets, according to sources) were to be operated by four Iraqi pilots and 10 Iranian pilots. The aircraft and support to fly them were said to be part of a deal under which Irans IRGC Air Force would receive [some said with US approval] six Su-30K multirole jets originally destined to Iraq. But there are no reports of Iraq ordering the Su-30, and US approval of tranfer of the Su-30 to Iran is implausible.

The fate of the Iranian Su-22 was unknown, but it seemed unlikely that they could make flights. The Iranians obtained 40 Iraqi Su-22s; they lived a shadow existence for two decades, until the Iranians finally decided in 2012 to start refurbishing and updating them, local industry doing the work with Russian and Romanian assistance. The aircraft featured minor avionics improvements, including new radios, and qualification with weapons in the Iranian inventory, notably the C-704 antiship missile. The refurbished aircraft were not going into Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) service; the customer is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has its own air arm. Although details are unsurprisingly murky, some of the refurbished Su-22s had been funneled by the Revolutionary Guards to Iranian client states, with ten or more being donated to Syria in 2015.

Irans Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced on 25 July 2018 that it had reactivated and upgraded 10 Sukhoi Su-22 aircraft. In a ceremony in Tehran attended by the Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari the Commander-in-Chief of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as well as Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of IRGC Aerospace Force, 10 Sukhoi fighter jets were unveiled which have been overhauled and modernized by IRGC military-technical experts and Iranian knowledge-based companies.

The Sukhoi SU-22, despite having excellent flight capabilities, e.g. flying at the speed of two point one (2.1) Mach, and at an altitude of 50,000 feet, is not a modern aircraft equipped with new arms. With this upgrade, the bombers will be able to carry and fire smart bombs and precision-guided munitions, air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles, transfer data from UAVs within a few kilometers from now on, and in the near future, air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) with a range of 15,00 km will be installed on them. Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said in the ceremony that the aircraft was grounded for 28 years but it has now been equipped with new domestically produced military equipment.

On 16 June 2010 the US Treasury sanctioned the IRGC Air Force and the IRGC missile command for their ties to ballistic missile programs. Treasury targetted the IRGC Air Force and IRGC Missile Command, key elements in the operational deployment of Iran's ballistic missile capability. The IRGC was designated by the State Departmentunder E.O. 13382 in October 2007 for having engaged, or attempted to engage, in proliferation-related activities. The IRGC has been outspoken in its willingness to facilitate the proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of carrying WMD. The IRGC has broad links to Iran's ballistic missile programs and is one of the primary regime organizations tied to developing and testing the Shahab-3 missile.

Qods Aeronautics Industries produces unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), parachutes, para-gliders, para-motors, etc. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has boasted of using these products as part of its asymmetric warfare doctrine. Pars Aviation Services Company maintains various aircraft including MI-171, used by IRGC Air Force. Shoa Aviation produces micro-lights which IRGC has claimed it is using as part of its asymmetric warfare doctrine.

Mohammed-Baqer Qalibaf is a former Revolutionary Guard air-force commander who is said to have played an influential role in the 1982 liberation of Khorramshahr that helped turn the tide in the Iran-Iraq war. Qalibaf served as an IRGC officer during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, following which he was appointed by then-IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaie as head of the IRGC Air Force in 1997, according to an open source biography. Qalibaf remains a licensed pilot, piloting Iran Air commercial flights on a regular basis in order to keep his license current.

Supreme Leader Khamenei appointed Qalibaf head of the Law Enforcement forces (LEF, the national police) in 1999. He is no rookie in Iranian politics. As Irans chief of national police, he kick-started Irans equivalent of the 911 emergency hotline. During the second half of the reformist administration of President Mohammed Khatami who was in office from 1997 to 2005 Qalibaf led the fight against counterfeit currency and smuggling.

Qalibaf, who lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential vote, used two terms as mayor of Tehran, a city of 12 million people, as a platform to foster a reputation as a politician who gets things done. Observers consistently rated Qalibaf as an excellent mayor, far superior to Ahmadinejad and better than Rafsanjani ally Gholam Hossein Karbaschi, who was mayor from 1988-98 but left in a financial scandal. He ran for president in 2013, but lost to Rohani.

An April 2019 estimate by IHS Jane's, states that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Air and Space Force (IRGCASF) has the following five brigades:

15th Ghaem
Missile Brigade
short-range missiles such as the Fajr
5th Ra'ad
Missile Brigade
Shahab-3/-4Karaj area, northwest of Tehran
7th Al-Hadid
Missile Brigade
Shahab-1 and -2 (Scuds B and C)Karaj area; and
controls the Imam Ali Missile Site in Khorramabad, western Iran
19th Zulfiqar
Missile Brigade
Nazeat and Zelzal short-range missilesKaraj area
23rd Towhid
Missile Brigade

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Page last modified: 25-07-2019 18:46:02 ZULU