Third F-35 squadron for Israel, Iran may hunt them with the S-400

Israel plans to expand its military capacity by adding 25 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, costing around $3 billion. This is funded by American military aid. The new aircraft will be part of Israel’s third squadron where the F-35, or Adir, symbolizes air superiority. Israel’s current fleet includes 50 F-35s, 36 of which are operational since 2018. 

New version of the 5th-generation F-35 stealth fighter arrives in Israel for testing
Photo credit: The Drive

Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant approved the acquisition, following recommendations from IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Director General of the Israel Ministry of Defense Maj. Gen. [Res.] Eyal Zamir, and Commander of the Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar. 

An official Letter of Request [LOR] will be issued by Israel’s Ministry of Defense in the USA to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office [JPO]. This will facilitate the deal’s approval and signing in the coming months. As part of the agreement, manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney will collaborate with Israeli defense industries in making aircraft components. 

The third squadron is planned

Joshua [Shiki] Shani, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Israel, expressed pride in supporting the Israeli Defense Forces with the F-35s and the government’s further acquisition plans. 

The sale of 35 F-35 stealth fighters to Germany is in progress
Photo credit: Pixabay

Several Israeli companies contribute to the F-35’s technology. Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins produce the helmet, and IAI makes the wings. By 2034, IAI plans to produce 811 pairs of F-35A wings in deals worth around $2 billion. 

A third F-35 squadron has been planned for years. Israel’s air force is also modernizing its tanker fleet with KC-46A refuelers and new CH-53K helicopters and operates F-16s and F-15s. These purchases are assisted by the American Foreign Military Financing [FMF] program.

S-400 in Iran

Iran has repeatedly said it will need new weapons systems and is looking to China and Russia. For now, Russia appears to be a better option for arms purchases as Moscow is at war with Kyiv, which could result in significantly reduced prices for a partner like Iran.

Russia deployed S-400s near universities and parks in Moscow
Photo credit: Fresh News

Iran has already purchased the Russian Su-35 fighter jets and this has caused a wave of speculation. The S-400 anti-aircraft system is the most likely option for a second major Iranian purchase. The system can counteract not only modern fighters, especially Israel’s F-35, but also build a serious air defense shield that will play the role of a deterrent weapon.

The eventual acquisition of the S-400 by Tehran will certainly play precisely this role – a deterrent. Israel has not risked conducting its air operations against Iranian targets as often, knowing that the range of the S-400 is too great.

Potential deployment

One potential location for Iran to deploy S-400 systems to counter potential F-35 attacks is along its western border, particularly in areas where Israel may attempt to launch strikes from. This could include areas near the Golan Heights or along the Lebanese border.

Russia and Turkey discuss the supply of an additional batch of S-400 missile system
Photo credit: AFP

Another potential location for Iran to deploy S-400 systems is along its southern coast, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz. This strategic waterway is a vital shipping route for oil exports and any disruption could have significant global economic consequences. Deploying S-400 systems in this area could deter Israel from launching any attacks in the region.

https://bulgarianmilitary.com/2023/01/11/f-35-af-7-flies-for-50-minutes-and-initiates-stealth-version-4/
Photo credit: MWM

Iran could also deploy S-400 systems in its eastern regions, particularly near its border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This could help protect against any potential attacks from the east, as well as provide coverage for Iran’s nuclear facilities located in the area.

Finally, Iran could deploy S-400 systems in its capital city of Tehran and other major urban areas. This would provide protection against any potential airstrikes targeting government buildings or other key infrastructure.

Potential geopolitical implications

The potential geopolitical implications of Iran purchasing Russian S-400 air defense systems are significant. First and foremost, it would signal a shift away from Iran’s traditional reliance on Russian military hardware towards a more diversified defense strategy. This could have implications for Iran’s relationships with other countries, particularly those in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Washington wants an extension of the arms embargo against Iran
Photo credit: VOA

In addition, the purchase of S-400 systems would likely be viewed with concern by the United States and its allies, who have been working to isolate Iran and limit its military capabilities. This could lead to increased tensions in the region and potentially even military action if Iran were to use the S-400 systems to target US or allied forces.

Another potential implication of Iran’s purchase of S-400 systems is that it could lead to a new arms race in the region. Other countries, particularly those with hostile relations with Iran, may feel compelled to acquire similar systems to maintain a balance of power. This could further destabilize the region and increase the risk of conflict.

Finally, the purchase of S-400 systems could have economic implications for Iran. The systems are expensive, and the purchase could strain Iran’s already struggling economy. Additionally, the purchase could lead to further sanctions from the United States and its allies, which could exacerbate Iran’s economic problems.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo credit: The Washington post

Iran said ‘No’ for now

Iran’s Defence Minister, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, dismissed speculation about Iran’s interest in Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. The rumors started after Iran purchased Su-35 fighters from Russia. Ashtiani stated that Iran can produce its own air defense equipment, like the Bavar-373 system. Iran has various Russian air defense assets, including the S-200 system obtained in the 1990s. Over the years, Iran has significantly updated the S-200 system.  

Iran unveils the two-silo AD-200 SAM firing Sayyad-4 Mach 5 missile
Photo credit: The Times of Israel

Iran ordered the S-300PMU-1 system, the predecessor to the S-400, in the following decade. But the order was canceled during Dmitry Medvedev’s administration. When Vladimir Putin became president again, Iran was offered the S-400 as a replacement, but Iran chose the older systems instead. This led to the acquisition of a customized variant of the S-300PMU-2.  

The S-300s were initially built for Syria but were postponed due to pressure from Israel and the West. After being modified to meet Iran’s needs, these S-300PMU-2s began arriving in Iran in 2017.

Iranian Bavar-373

Iran developed its own long-range missile system, Bavar-373, following Russia’s block of S-300 sales. The system’s viability against the S-400 is debated. 

The Bavar-373 has six mobile launchers with four missiles each, a command post, search radar, and target tracking radar. It can track 300 targets at once and engage six simultaneously. Its detection range is 260km and it can hit targets 200km away. However, it lacks multiple radars operating on complementary wavebands, a feature of the S-400. 

Iran introduced an air defense system analogous to the current S-300 and S-400
Photo credit: Defence-blog

The S-400 has a 400km engagement range and three classes of missiles for multi-layered defense. It successfully intercepted hypersonic missiles at speeds over Mach 8 in tests in China. 

Iran’s indigenous air defense systems have proved effective in combat. The 3rd of Khordad system shot down an expensive American drone in 2019, demonstrating Iran’s defensive capabilities.

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