Reports: Iran May Buy 250 Jets From Russia
By Philip Ewing – Defence News.com July 30, 2007
Iran is in negotiations with Russia to buy 250 state-of-the-art fighter jets, an Israeli newspaper reported, in a pointed response to a new American bid to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to potential Iranian adversaries in the Middle East.
The English-language Jerusalem Post of Israel reported Monday that top Israeli defense officials are investigating the potential Iran-Russia deal, in which Iran would pay $1 billion for about a dozen squadrons’ worth of Sukhoi Su-30 “Flanker” fighter-bombers. As a part of the deal, Iran would also buy aerial tanker planes that could extend the fighters’ range.
Russia has already supplied Iran with modern surface-to-air missile defense systems, intended to protect nuclear facilities from potential Israeli or American airstrikes. Russian officials have defended those sales, saying they are within their rights to sell any nation weapons for its self-defense.
The Jerusalem Post report appeared two days after the American press reported that President Bush wants to ramp up American arms sales to several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in a deal that could be worth as much as $20 billion, in the hopes of limiting the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman decried the Americans weapons deal Monday on a state-sponsored Web site.
“What the Persian Gulf region needs is stability and security,” said Mohammad-Ali Hosseini. “Americans have been trying to disturb it by selling weapons to the region.”
The two-seat Su-30 is a popular Russian export fighter. Models are already in service with the Chinese, Indian and other militaries, and there are variants deigned for naval aviation. The fighter can carry a maximum weapons payload of more than 17,000 pounds, according to Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, and has a range, on internal fuel, of about 1,620 nautical miles, but that can be extended to 2,805 nautical miles with one midair refuel.
The Su-30’s listed performance capabilities are comparable to or better than the three primary American fighters deployed to Iraq: the Navy’s carrier-based F/A-18 Hornet and the Air Force’s F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
If it acquired the Flankers, Iran would enjoy a quantum leap forward in its air power capability. Iran has invested much of its resources in surface-to-air missile defenses, but its fighter fleet now consists of decades-old American exported F-14 Tomcats and F-4 Phantoms, and an unknown hodgepodge of 1970s-era Russian fighters, including Su-25 “Frogfoots,” and newer models, including the MiG-27 “Flogger.
Last updated 02/08/2007