Russia begins deliveries of Sukhoi Su-35 fighters to Iran in 2023

WASHINGTON — Iranian pilots are already being trained to fly the Russian 4th generation Sukhoi Su-35 Felon-E fighter jets. US sources confirmed the news, but did not name the nationality of the pilots, saying “pilots from a Middle Eastern country”. At the moment, the only country showing interest in Russian fighter jets is Iran.

Ukrainian MiG-29 shot down a Russian Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jet
Photo: Twitter

Iran has officially confirmed that it is interested in the F-35 Felon-E. On September 5th, commander Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force [IRIAF] said that Tehran is interested in acquiring the Su-35. The initial plan was for Iran to acquire another Russian fighter, the Sukhoi Su-30, but it later abandoned it and turned its attention to the Felon-E.

According to sources who follow this military-business relationship, mostly Turkish, Iran is most likely to buy the 24 fighter jets that were ordered by Egypt. However, Egypt pulled out of the deal, accusing Russia that the fighters had a “technical problem”. Another version of Egypt’s refusal is possible economic sanctions from the US under the CAATSA law.

The US sources claim that Russia will start supplying Su-35s to Iran next year. The announcement comes at a very pivotal time, political analysts say. According to them, this could be an attempt by the US to influence the Persian Gulf states, which have been criticized for their refusal to support Western positions against Russia and for strengthening their ties with China.

It is even more significant that the announcement of the upcoming deliveries to Iran occurs when Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a visit to Saudi Arabia. I.e. The trump card “threat from Iran” is used to remind Middle Eastern countries how “important an ally and partner” the US is.

Russian F-35 fighter jet
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Iran needs a modernized air force. The country has quite a few outdated American and Soviet fighter jet models from the Vietnam War era. Over the years, Tehran tried to modernize its MiG-29s, but failed. Tehran was initially impressed by the capabilities of the Chinese J-10C fighter. It has excellent performance, is much cheaper than the Russian Su-35 and has low operating costs.

However, the war in Ukraine is draining not only Ukraine, but also Russia. Moscow has been forced to seek delivery of weapons systems from its few remaining allies at the moment. Iran responded by sending kamikaze drones, which Russia adeptly used to launch airstrikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure. It is rumored that the Su-35 may be part of a barter agreement between Iran and Moscow. It is also rumored that as a second option, Moscow could provide Iran with a much lower price per Su-35.

The Su-35 is the flagship of Russian aviation at the moment. It took part in the war in Ukraine, and Russia plans to produce a total of 200 units of this fighter. However, this may not happen. Russia seeks to reduce investment in Su-35 production. An Iranian purchase of the Su-35 could reduce the pace of acquisition of this fighter.

For Iran, the acquisition of such a fighter occupies a central part of the country’s defense. The US and Israel are “training” to strike Iran’s nuclear program, which means Tehran needs a fighter jet to accept the challenge. At the moment, perhaps the only alternative is the Su-35.

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