Russia could sell Iran fighters, bombers

With concerns in the West about military ties between Russia and Iran, an official at Russia’s state arms exporter says if asked, Moscow will be willing to consider orders for military equipment from Tehran.

“If Iran were interested in military transport planes, or tactical battle aviation, we would look at this request,” Alexander Mikheyev, the deputy director of Rosoboronexport, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency on Wednesday.

Despite domestic production of fighter jets, Iran seems to be interested in refurbishing its army’s aging air fleet.

The Russian official, meanwhile, did not mention the company’s willingness for the delivery of a controversial Russian-made air defense system.

While Moscow signed a contract with Tehran in 2007 to supply the powerful S-300 missiles to Iran, there has been interminable confusion reigning over the delivery of the sophisticated defense system.

The S-300 surface-to-air system, known as the SA-20 in the West, can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km (75 miles) away. It also features high jamming immunity and is capable of simultaneously engaging up to 100 targets.

Tehran has opted to acquire the sophisticated S-300 system to counter potential air strikes on its nuclear facilities as Israel continues to mention such measures as prudent in dealing with the Iranian program.

Israeli and US officials have strongly urged Moscow not to supply the missiles, and the issue has been the subject of intense diplomatic wrangling for years.

The US, Israel and their European allies — Britain, France and Germany — claim the Islamic Republic has military objectives in its nuclear enrichment program.

The Tehran government, however, says the only aim of its nuclear program is the civilian applications of the technology. The country also claims that it would have no use for such weapons as it considers them ‘obsolete.’

Israel has repeatedly threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, — including the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz or the country’s first atomic power plant, which has been under construction by Russian workers in Bushehr for years — arguing that the country’s nuclear activities are an existential threat to Tel Aviv’s security.

According to Western experts, the S-300 system would rule out the possibility of an Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear sites.

“If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran,” says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure.

Speaking on the issue, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Wednesday that the Kremlin has promised to reconsider the planned delivery of the S-300 missiles to Iran.

“President Medvedev gave a promise he will reconsider the sales of S-300s because it affects the delicate balance which exists in the Middle East,” Peres told reporters.