Russian fighter jets will change the rules of the game in the Middle East, by Rafael Fakhrutdinov for VZGLYAD. 03.12.2023.
Experts told why Iran needs Su-35 fighters.
The sensational news was announced by official sources in Iran - it is alleged that Moscow agreed to sell Su-35 fighters to Tehran. If this information is correct, the Russian military-industrial complex will earn billions of dollars, Iran will have a powerful tool to counter Israel, and US influence in the Middle East will decrease.
Iran has completed a deal to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, the Iranian state news agency IRNA reported , citing Iran's permanent mission to the UN. Information about the number of aircraft and delivery time is not disclosed.
“After the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Iran turned to a number of countries with a request to study the possibility of selling fighters, and Russia announced that it was ready to sell them,” the permanent mission said. The mission added that “the fighters are technically approved by Iran. After October 2020, when the ban on the sale of conventional weapons to Iran was lifted in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, Tehran finally decided to acquire them.”
A few days earlier, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, at a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, expressed concern about Iran's "growing strategic partnership with Russia", and, in particular, the sale of Iranian drones to Moscow, the US Department of Defense said in a statement.
“Over the past year, Russian military cooperation with Iran has deepened, and this creates serious problems for this region and for the security of your citizens. Iran is gaining important combat knowledge and experience in Ukraine, which will eventually receive its dangerous puppets in the Middle East,” he added. “In exchange for support, Russia is offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including in the areas of missiles and air defense,” Lloyd said.
The Biden administration calls the close ties between Moscow and Tehran "harmful" and says the Iranians are already being trained on the new planes. White House spokesman John Kirby pointed out that "these fighters will significantly strengthen the Iranian air force compared to its neighbors in the region."
In February, Iran unveiled a new underground air force base called Eagle 44, The New York Times reported . It is located on a mountainside 160 km north of the Strait of Hormuz.
The satellite imagery was reviewed by Chris Biggers, a former US government imaging analyst and senior director of mission applications at HawkEye 360, a firm that monitors radio frequency emissions around the world. In his analysis, Biggers pointed to two models of combat aircraft, one of which is the size of a Su-35. It stands on the site where construction is underway. “Probably, they are used to assess the maneuvering of aircraft in the underground complex and may indicate that the Su-35s will be based here,” the American expert said.
At the beginning of this year, Shahriar Heydari, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Islamic Consultative Council, said: Su-35s will arrive from Russia in Iran in early 2024, Tasnim reported . “We have ordered defense systems, missiles and helicopters from Russia, and most of these weapons will soon enter the country,” he added.
Iranian Air Force Commander Amir Vahedi stressed that in addition to the Su-35, Tehran plans to purchase Su-30 fighters.
Su-35s showed themselves well during the counter-terrorist operation of the Aerospace Forces in Syria. In addition, President Vladimir Putin called the work of Russian aviation during the special operation in Ukraine very good. “And the attack aircraft are fighting excellently, and the “dryers” - Su-34, Su-35, very well. The weapons are good. <...> They make a significant contribution to the effectiveness of the actions of the troops," the head of state emphasized at a meeting with the awarded Heroes of Russia in the Kremlin. In other words, the Su-35 is the beauty and pride of the Russian defense industry, one of the most advanced fighters in the world at the moment.
According to US media reports, in 2017, the Syrian army, together with the Lebanese military and Hezbollah fighters, liberated the Arsal municipality on the border of Lebanon and Syria from terrorists. The detachments were supported by the Su-35 of the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation. This also played in favor of Iran's purchase of these fighters. The publication reported that the Su-35 is likely to be deployed to protect and patrol key facilities associated with the Iranian nuclear program.
It is worth noting that Russian officials have not yet commented on the statement of Iranian representatives. And yet, the likelihood that we are not talking about some kind of speculation, but about the real possibility of a deal is high. If the reports are confirmed, it will mean a major achievement for the Russian arms trade system, as well as significant profits for domestic manufacturers of combat aircraft.
It could be a deal worth billions of dollars.
“This contract is a good stage for the further promotion of Russian military-industrial complex products to the Middle East,” says pilot-instructor Major Andrey Krasnoperov. - Especially if we assume that the delivery of several dozen aircraft is expected, and the contract itself allows for additional purchases of aircraft. It also means that Russia will train Iranian pilots. These are long-term programs, deepening cooperation between countries,” the specialist explained.
Military Watch magazine wrote that the Su-35 has destroyed more enemy fighters than any other aircraft since the Cold War. In addition, the author of the publication continues, the Su-35 can withstand modern Western fighters of the highest class - the F-35A and F-15CA.
“The Iranian Air Force, with the purchase of the Su35, will receive a significant increase in air power,” Krasnoperov confirms. - The Su-35 has good maneuverability and air combat capabilities. For example, there were cases when an F-16 tried to intercept it, but the Russian car quite calmly went into the tail of an American fighter, ”the interlocutor recalled.
Experts directly indicate the enemy that the Russian-made Su-35 will be confronted in Iran.
“Iran is not yet able to independently produce 4++ generation aircraft, such as the Su-35, which can “see” the American F-35 and F-22 protected by stealth technology. Therefore, acquiring such advanced fighter jets from Russia is the right decision for Tehran. In addition, I can assume that Tehran buys air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-radar missiles for them,” Alexei Leonkov, editor of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, explained.
“Iran has S-300 and Tor M1 air defense systems. Now they can make an integrated air defense system, where the Su-35 will meet the aggressor at the forefront. In addition, this fighter is called the "hunter" - for the ability to gain air supremacy. In general, Tehran's deal with Moscow changes the balance of power in the Middle East region and becomes a serious challenge for Israel,” the source said.
“Israel has F-16s and F-35s. They bought them in order to keep "on a short leash" the neighboring countries of the Middle East, which have nothing to answer for the fifth generation fighter. And Iran will now have Su-35s that “see” further and are superior in maneuverability to the American fighter,” the analyst emphasized.
“For the F-35, close combat is deadly, the aircraft was designed for confrontation at medium range. But if long-range guided air-to-air missiles are included in the Su-35 ammunition supplied to Iran, then they will be able to successfully withstand American fighters at any distance, ”the expert added.
The deal has not only a purely military, but also a geopolitical dimension. “This deal shows that the Middle East is no longer unipolar. The strengthening of the Iranian Air Force will cause some "disappointment" in Saudi Arabia with its American partners. On the other hand, Riyadh and Tehran are building relationships at an accelerated pace. Therefore, the delivery of the Su-35 to Iran can be called one of the stages of strengthening the new Middle East pole, an alternative to the American one,” says Rajab Safarov, general director of the Center for the Study of Modern Iran.
“The supply of fighter jets to Tehran demonstrates the decline of US influence both in the region and in the world. We see how China and Russia "enter" the Middle East. The United States and its Israeli partners will no longer be able to feel as at ease on the border with Iran as before, and will also be much more prudent in pursuing the policy they need in Yemen", the interlocutor sums up.