Air Force Hit by Sanctions Iran’s aging fleet of planes has struggled to get spare parts needed to keep its fighters in the air. During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, Tehran announced that it had begun looking for “countries to acquire fighter jets” to rebuild its fleet.
The statement, picked up by the official IRNA news agency late on Friday, claimed that “Russia indicated that it was willing to sell them” following the expiration in October 2020 of the bans imposed on Iran to obtain conventional weapons under the resolution. UN 2231.
“The Sukhoi 35 fighter jets were technically suitable for Iran,” it continued.
The New York Times claimed last month that photographs of a recently discovered underground Iranian air force facility, codenamed “Eagle 44,” indicated that the facility was being prepared to house Russia’s state-of-the-art Sukhoi fighters.
The top military officer of the Islamic Republic of Iran declared last month that the country’s first underground air base would be used to respond to possible attacks by Israel or others.
For the past several years, Iran has been moving much of its most vital military infrastructure into bunkers. Iranian centrifuges were damaged in an attack on the underground Natanz nuclear plant, for which Israel has been blamed. Over the past year, Iran and Moscow have developed close cooperation in various fields, including the military.
In December, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby warned that Moscow would likely offer Iran its fighter jets. The United States has raised concerns about the growing military collaboration between Iran and Russia.
To “substantially increase Iran’s air force compared to that of its regional neighbors,” in Kirby’s words, Tehran could acquire the Sukhoi jets within the next year. Iranian pilots have begun training to fly planes in Russia.
Iran’s current air force is made up mostly of Soviet-era Russian, MiG, and Sukhoi fighter jets, with a handful of Chinese F-7s. It also has some American F-4 and F-5 fighters from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
After unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, then-President Trump began reimposing sanctions on Iran in 2019. Iran had been secretly breaching its obligations under the deal. The Israeli Mossad discovered Iran’s secret files and sent them to the US administration at the time.
In exchange for limiting its controversial nuclear program, Iran received sanctions relief under the 2015 deal officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.