Iran - Su-35
Iran finalized a deal 09 March 2023 on buying Su-35 fighter jets from Russia after deliberations that have been ongoing for months. Iran's mission to the United Nations told Russian news agency Sputnik, though they refused to disclose information on the number of aircraft and the timing of their delivery, as that is classified information. Media had reported that 24 of the fourth-generation twin-engine, super-maneuverable Sukhoi fighter jets meant for air superiority missions are part of the package.
This was the first time in decades that Iran has acquired new fighter aircraft, with the exception of several MiG-29 Fulcrum's Tehran bought back in the 1990s. The IRIAF currently uses the Russian MiG-29 and modified F-4 Phantom IIs, F-14 Tomcats, and F-5E/F Tiger IIs from the United States, which Tehran had gotten from Washington under the US-backed Pahlavi government.
"Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Iran asked a bunch of countries to buy fighter jets, and Russia said it was open to selling," the mission said. "The SU-35 fighter jets are technically acceptable to Iran, so after October 2020 and the end of Iran's restrictions on conventional weapons purchases (UN Resolution 2231), Iran finalized the deal to buy them," Tehran's delegation added. However, the diplomatic mission did not specify when the deal was finalized exactly, nor how many fighter jets Russia would deliver to Iran and when. "There are no details to be published because it's classified," the mission added.
In a statement to the United Nations, Tehran said it began approaching "countries to buy fighter jets" to replenish its fleet in the wake of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. "Russia announced it was ready to sell them" after the expiry in October 2020 of restrictions on Iran purchasing conventional weapons under UN Resolution 2231, said the statement carried by the official IRNA news agency. "The Sukhoi 35 fighter jets were technically acceptable for Iran," it added.
Kyiv has accused Tehran of supplying Moscow with Shahed-136 "kamikaze" drones used in attacks on civilian targets since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year -- an allegation the Islamic republic denies.
It was reported in mid-March 2023 that Iran was expected to receive multiple Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia as early as March 2023. MP Shahriar Heidari told Tasnim news agency that alongside the fighter jets, Iran will also receive military equipment such as air defense systems, missile systems, and helicopters that they had previously ordered.
The Russian government may be able to speed up the transfer of such aircraft. The EurAsian Times noted 05 September 2022 that a batch of Su-35SE planes originally built for Egypt has been sitting in Russia due to the threats of American sanctions. These fighter jets could be diverted to the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). The Super Flankers in question are the same ones Russia built for Egypt’s air force. For now, a number of Su-35SEs intended for delivery to Egypt remain parked in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East, home to the eponymous Komsomolsk-on Amur Aircraft Plant (KnAAZ). This has fuelled speculation that Russia will sell them to Iran or Algeria (a major Russian arms client) instead.
The National Interest reported in January 2023 that Tehran's potential purchase of dozens of Russian Su-35 aircraft would give an unprecedented boost to Tehran's control over its airspace, especially in case of an aerial military confrontation against the Israeli occupation.
The Commander of Iran's Army Air Force Hamid Vahedi had announced that Iran is looking at purchasing Russian Su-35 fighter jets. Despite some Western assessments tending to downplay Iran's potential acquisition of the aircraft, believing that it would not drastically change the airpower balance in the Gulf, the purchase "manifests a grim calculus for the West," the report suggested. The article described the Su-35 as "a very lucrative catch" for Iran, as the aircraft is "a Russian 4.5th generation air-superiority fighter that has a better thrust-to-weight ratio than its predecessor, the Su-27," explaining that the platform is "capable of performing controlled maneuvers that would otherwise be impossible via regular aerodynamics." In addition to the Su-35, The National Interest report claimed that Iran might be very close to purchasing an S-400 deal, which would "decidedly alter the risk assessment" of an Israeli occupation strike on Iran.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said 09 March 2023 during a meeting with Israeli Security Minister Yoav Gallant that military cooperation between Russia and Iran bears negative repercussions for the Israeli occupation and the entire region of the Middle East. "Secretary Austin provided updates to Minister Gallant on Russia's unprovoked war of choice in Ukraine. He noted the negative implications for Israel and the broader Middle East from increased military cooperation between Iran and Russia," the Pentagon said in a statement after the bilateral meeting in occupied Palestine.
Furthermore, according to the Pentagon statement, Austin highlighted that Tehran may gain battlefield experience with the kamikaze drones Russia is currently using. The repercussions of Russia transferring sophisticated military technology to Iran may be felt throughout the entire region, the senior US defense official added.
Despite the warnings about cooperation, the Israeli occupation discussed with the United States a bilateral defense partnership, including the JUNIPER OAK exercise, which was recently concluded between the two sides and had been attended by over 7,000 Israeli occupation forces and US troops. Meanwhile, the Pentagon said both parties agreed to continue cooperation in that area, i.e., the military sphere.
Greek paper Kathimerini claimed on 16 November 2020 that the Russian military-industrial complex in the very near future may receive a large export order for the Su-35. Potential customer - Iran, which could purchase 24 Sukhoi Su-35SE fighter jets, taking delivery of aircraft originally built for Egypt.
The news was thrown into the media in an article in the Persian-language supplement of the English newspaper The Independent, written by the renowned aviation expert Babak Tagwai, who specializes primarily in the Middle East region. According to him, in mid-January 2022, Moscow and Tehran will sign a major long-term agreement on cooperation in the field of defense and security. Among other things, the delivery of Su-35 aircraft is possible. It is noteworthy that the modern Su-35, entering service with the Russian Aerospace Forces under the Su-35S index, is an aircraft that was originally made with a view, first of all, for export deliveries.
The Su-35 theme began as a development on a new level of the idea of a deeply modernized single-seat fighter of the Su-27 family. The first "approach to the projectile" was the Su-27M of the first half of the 1990s. Prototypes were produced and only three conditionally "serial" aircraft, which, after being operated at the Air Force flight test center in Akhtubinsk, were transferred to the aerobatics group "Russian Knights". The modern Su-35 was created as a hi-end machine for the Komsomol branch of the Su-30 development. This version of the fighter received the Su-30MKK (Modernized Commercial Chinese) index and was produced at the Komsomolsk Aviation Plant ( KnAAZ ).
Su-35, at the "paper" stage, began to participate in competitions in South Korea and Brazil. The latter was already very serious, there were good chances of winning, but in the end, for economic reasons, the South American state chose the smallest and potentially cheapest aircraft to operate - the Swedish Gripen, which is, of course, renowned for their geographical scale.
The Chinese contract for 24 fighters was implemented as soon as possible. In 2015, Beijing became the first foreign customer of the Russian multifunctional Su-35 fighters, and already in 2018 the aircraft were delivered to the buyer. In parallel, there was a large-scale serial production of the Su-35 for the Russian Aerospace Forces, making the Su-35S, along with the Su-30SM, the main tactical aircraft - moreover, the "thirty-fifth" is a more expensive and high-tech solution, surpassing the universal "thirty" in the task of gaining air supremacy.
Superiority is achieved due to a more advanced complex of onboard radio-electronic equipment (first of all, the most powerful radar station "Irbis" is remembered here, but the electronic warfare complex, the electronic "co-pilot" and, in general, more advanced cabin equipment cannot be ignored). The more powerful Su-35 engines could give it a maneuverability advantage.
Thus, for the task of ensuring the country's air defense, the Su-35 looks like a good choice, which is especially important for Tehran. At the moment, the republic, which has achieved visible and spectacularly demonstrated successes in rocketry, has a stagnant aircraft fleet represented by American aircraft purchased before the 1979 anti-Shah revolution (in particular, the F-4 Phantom II "and F-14" Tomcat ") and flew to the end of Desert Storm by former Iraqi vehicles purchased by Saddam from the USSR (MiG-29, Su-24M, Su-25).
For a long time, contracts for combat aircraft were blocked by UN Security Council sanctions, but they have already ended. In these conditions, Russia was not only one of the few suppliers not afraid of American bans, but also the only one capable of promptly delivering an advanced fighter that had been proven both at home and abroad and in battle.
In September 2022, Iranian Army Air Force Commander Hamid Vahedi announced that the IRIAF is looking to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. Even Turkey was considering the Su-35 as an alternative for the US-made F-16s in case of a fallout with the United States.
According to US officials, Iranian pilots received Sukhoi Su-35 training in Russia in the spring, indicating Iran may start acquiring the aircraft within the following year. The information was disclosed to NBC News on 09 December 2022 by senior officials of President Joe Biden’s administration. This training is part of what the US has described as an “unprecedented” level of military and other technology support pouring from Moscow to Tehran.
Iran and Russia have been undertaking measures and agreements to boost their economic, trade, energy, and military cooperation. In December 2022, CIA Director William Burns pointed out that the US was concerned about the growing cooperation between Russia and Iran and fears that it could eventually evolve into a full defense partnership.
The United States had expressed alarm over the growing military cooperation between Iran and Russia, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby warning in December 2022 that Russia looked likely to sell Iran its fighter jets. Kirby maintained that Iranian pilots had reportedly been learning to fly the Sukhoi warplanes in Russia, and that Tehran may receive the aircraft within the next year, which would "significantly strengthen Iran's air force relative to its regional neighbours".
In late December 2022, some reports revealed that Russia will soon be providing Iran with a complete squadron of Su-35 fighters in the near future, marking a new era in Russian-Iranian cooperation as the West keeps trying to isolate the two nations through unilateral sanctions.
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