Russia To Supply Iran With 24 Advanced Sukhoi Fighter Jets
Starting a week ago reports began emerging in Middle East regional media, including in both Iranian and Israeli news sources, that Russia will soon provide Islamic Republic with dozens of Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. Israeli reports are even citing "Western intelligence officials" in making the claim.
Iranian state Tasnim wrote days ago that "Iran will soon receive 24 of the fourth-generation twin-engine, super-maneuverable fighter jets that are primarily used for air superiority missions," in what seems to be some level of confirmation.
The state-run outlet noted that Iran hasn't been able to acquire any new aircraft from outside countries in years, and the last time jets were transferred from Russia was in the 1990's.
The Times of Israel also recently reported the following, citing the country's Channel 12 network:
The report by Channel 12 said the deal could include as many as 24 jets that were originally intended for Egypt, in a deal that the United States thwarted.
This left Moscow looking for a new potential buyer, which it has reportedly found in Tehran. The report comes after Iranian media said in September that Tehran was weighing such a purchase.
Intelligence indicated that Iranian pilots were already using the jets for training, the report said, without elaborating.
In all of these reports, the sourcing is anonymous and thus somewhat dubious, given also even Iranian state media is citing "reports say...". However, the fact that state media is running headlines about acquiring the Sukhoi Su-35s is hugely significant nonetheless.
It could mean that Tehran and Moscow are at least in the early phases of negotiating such a transfer. This would indicate that their deepened military ties which has been on display throughout the Ukraine war, based largely on Iran controversially supplying its 'Kamikaze' drones which have been in use by the Russian army in Ukraine, is going the other way too as far as the defense supply chain.
🇮🇷✈️🇷🇺Iran to receive dozens of Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia pic.twitter.com/bGKRQUKnzt— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) December 30, 2022
On Thursday, Forbes asked the qestion: who will operate these sophisticated and advanced jets if they are acquired? Likely there would be a significant Russian-overseen training program...
The IRGC-AF has never operated more advanced aircraft than those vintage Soviet-era Su-22 Fitter or Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes — ex-Iraqi warplanes that fled from Operation Desert Storm to 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 rampaging Islamic State (ISIS) group.
Forbes further reviews of Iran's ageing air force planes: "Aside from procuring Chengdu F-7 fighters from China during the 1980s, post-1979 Iran only made one significant fighter procurement, in 1990 when it bought MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets and Su-24 Fencer bombers for the IRIAF from the Soviet Union."
Thus any advanced fighter transfer could see the rare instance of Russian advisers training IRGC pilots. Meanwhile, the US and UK have continued to ratchet up sanctions on Iran's defense manufacturing sector, especially in light of the drone supplies which appear to be ongoing in relation to the war in Ukraine.