The commander of the Iranian Air Force, Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi, says Iran does not refuse to buy Su-35 fighters from Russia. The deal is on the table, but the final decision has not been made yet.
Speaking to Barna news agency, he said that Iran is not thinking about buying Su-30SM fighters from Russia, as had been said many times before. Instead, the priority is to buy Su-35 fighters, which can be used for multiple roles.
“This issue is on the agenda, and I hope we will be able to get these 4++ generation fighters in the future (…) the final decision on the purchase of Su-35 fighters in Russia remains with the command of the Army Command and the Armed Forces General Staff Command of the Iranian Armed Forces,” Vahedi said.
Ex Egyptian Su-35s
Tehran intends to purchase an “Egyptian” batch of Su-35 fighters from Russia, which was discussed with Russia in December 2021. About 20 Su-35S fighters were manufactured by order of Egypt, but Cairo refused to induct them into the Egyptian Air Force, allegedly due to US pressure. Iran turned up just in time and desperately needs a plane capable of withstanding the Israeli F-35I Adir, which, after modernization, can fly to Iran without refuelling. According to Western experts, the Su-35 is the only fighter capable of facing the American F-35s. The Iranian Air Force wants to purchase the Su-35, not the Su-30SM, which is much cheaper.
Drones for fighters deal
In early August, it was reported that Tehran allegedly signed a contract for Russian Su-35s back in July during a visit to Iran by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The western media had alleged that Moscow and Tehran were negotiating to swap Iranian drones for Russian fighters. But there were no confirmations or denials from either Moscow or Tehran. Judging by the statement of the commander of the Iranian Air Force, the deal has not yet taken place. According to unconfirmed information, Moscow may purchase more than 1,000 drones, which will seriously strengthen the Russian Armed Forces.
But, as per the Israeli website Debka, Iran has provided the Russian army fighting in Ukraine with 46 attack and surveillance drones of two models – Shahid-129 and Shahid-191. In total, Iran will supply the Russians with about 300 combat UAVs.
Su-35S fighter jets, S-400 air defense system and one spacecraft
An exiled Iranian military aviation journalist, Babak Taghvi, tweeted in late December 2021 that Iran and Russia would sign a US$10 billion security and defense cooperation agreement that would include the purchase of Su-35S fighter jets, an S-400 air defense system and one satellite. The contract would be signed in January 2022 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi.
Based on what the journalist found out, the agreement will include the purchase of at least 24 Su-35S heavy fighters, most of which have already been made for the Egyptian Air Force.
In March 2019, it was revealed that the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant named after Gagarin (KnAAZ) was already building aircraft for delivery to Egypt.
After signing the contract in 2018, Egypt was to become the first customer for the Su-35S in the Middle East. The agreement provided for the supply of 30 fighters worth about $ 3 billion. Babak Tagvi believes that 15-16 aircraft were built in accordance with this contract, but Egypt never received them.
As per a publication Aviaci online, the contract with Egypt could not be terminated because it was already paid for. But Cairo allowed the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) to resell the built Su-35S on its behalf. The site writes that Iran will pay the cost of 24 aircraft, amounting to $ 3 billion, with crude oil supplies.
The website writes that the Iranian Air Force has already selected 30 F-14A, MiG-29, and F-4E pilots to be dispatched to Russia for training on the Su-35S. The pilots will begin training almost immediately after signing the contract, and by mid-2022, all 24 Su-35S will be delivered.
The contract, according to Aviaci online, also includes extending the service life and overhauling and modernizing 23 MiG-29 aircraft and 25 modernized Su-24MK front-line bombers. The modernizing will be carried out at Iranian facilities. The weapons package also includes two S-400 air defense batteries to cover strategic areas that Israel could attack.
In addition, in accordance with the contract, Iran can purchase a military communications satellite or a space surveillance and reconnaissance satellite from Russia.
The agreement, if signed, will be Iran’s first significant step toward modernizing its air force.