I ran will shortly receive the first shipment of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, an Iranian official has announced.
Shahriar Heidari, a member of National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Parliament, revealed the plan during an interview with Iran’s Tasnim news Agency.
The jets will arrive to Iran “early next year”, Heidari reportedly said, referring to the Persian calendar according to which the new year begins on March 21.
Neither the exact date nor the size of the delivery has been revealed by Heidari. However, previous reports suggest that Iran is set to receive 24 Su-35s.
Reports that Russia might supply Iran with Su-35s first appeared in January 2022. According to local media, negotiations between the countries began in October 2021 and the deal was signed in January 2022,
According to those early reports, the delivery was expected to take place in early 2022. It was said to involve 24 Su-35s which had previously been manufactured for Egypt but remained undelivered.
The first confirmation of such plans came in September 2022, when the head of Iran’s air force Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi confirmed that the issue of purchasing Su-35s was “on the agenda”.
In December 2022 unnamed US officials said that Russia had started to train Iranian pilots to fly the Su-35, according to US media reports. The aircraft may be exchanged for Iranian-made weapons, such as loitering munitions and ballistic missiles, the officials said.
Strapped for aircraft
The Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) currently operates a collection of Cold War-era aircraft which it has been unable to replace or upgrade for decades.
The bulk of the IRIAF fighter jet fleet consists of US-made McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, Northrop F-5 Tiger II and Grumman F-14 Tomcat jets inherited from the Imperial Iranian Air Force after the Islamic revolution of 1979.
In the 1980s and 90s the types were supplemented by small numbers of Chengdu J-7s 9 (Chinese copies of the MiG-21), MiG-29s and Mirage F1s.
In the 2000s Iran also showcased some domestically manufactured variants of the F-5, although their numbers are believed to be very low.
International sanctions largely prevented Iran from upgrading its military aircraft fleets, with most IRIAF aircraft being more than 40 years old.
Russia’s top jet
The delivery of Su-35s would mean a significant upgrade for the aging Iranian fleet. Classified as a 4.5 or 4++ generation jet, the Su-35 is a deeply modified derivative of the Su-27, one of the most successful and popular Soviet fighter jets.
The Su-35 was developed in the 1980s and 90s, although its production did not start in earnest until the early 2010s.
The aircraft is a multirole fighter jet, tasked with performing both air superiority and ground attack missions.
It has been extensively used during Russia’s intervention in Syria and the invasion of Ukraine, where at least one Su-35 has been visually confirmed as shot down.
Besides serving with Russian Aerospace Forces, the Su-35 has also been exported to China. A number of other countries, including Egypt, Turkey, Algeria and Indonesia, have also considered purchasing the aircraft in the past.