Iran could purchase 24 Sukhoi Su-35SE fighter jets from Russia, taking delivery of aircraft originally built for Egypt.
The armaments deal, worth at least $3 billion, will also include two S-400 air defense systems and an unspecified military satellite.
According to a report written by Iranian military expert Babak Taghvaei and published by The Independent Persian, negotiations between Iranian and Russian officials were conducted in October 2021. The deal is scheduled to be signed in mid-January 2022. As the Su-35s have already been built, they would be delivered during the first half of 2022.
According to Taghvaei, Sukhoi intended to deliver the aircraft to Egypt after the country had placed an order for Su-35s in 2018. Recently, the deal was dropped, with pressure from the US cited as the reason.
Russia has also been conducting talks with Indonesia, which expressed interest in the aircraft. In December 2021, Indonesia also terminated its talks.
Algeria, another customer that placed an order for the aircraft in 2016, was reported to have dropped it by early January 2021.
According to Taghvaei, negotiations between Iran and Russia are yet to reach a conclusion, and could go either way. The Iranian Air Force is reportedly strapped for cash and may not be able to procure the funding required to pay for the aircraft.
Meanwhile, there is a potential option of bartering the jets and paying for them in crude oil. This is set to be discussed during the visit of the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Russia later in January 2022.
Several other military experts, quoted by Forbes, are skeptical of Iran’s capability to go ahead with such an expensive purchase, citing similar discussions that had fallen through in the past.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force currently possesses an array of fighter jets, most of which could be considered as largely obsolete and outdated. The bulk of the force is comprised of the McDonnel Douglas F-4, Northrop F-5 and Grumman F-14 fighter jets inherited from the Imperial Iranian Air Force, which purchased them from the US in the 1960s and 70s.
In the subsequent years, Iran has managed to supplement its Air Force with small numbers of MiG-29, Mirage F1, Chengdu J-7 as well as some reverse-engineered F-5s.
The Sukhoi Su-35 is a 4.5 generation fighter jet based on the successful Su-27. The aircraft has been adopted by the Russian Air Force and purchased by China. A small number has also been delivered to Egypt.
The Su-35 features significant upgrades to its avionics and weapon systems. It is also one of the few mass-produced aircraft with thrust-vectored engine nozzles, a system designed to enhance maneuverability and controllability at low speeds.
If purchased by Iran, the Su-35 constitutes a significant upgrade to the country’s air force inventory.