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IRAN AIR FORCE

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The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) is the aviation branch of the Iranian armed forces. The present Air Force came into being in the early 1980s when the former Imperial Iranian Air Force was renamed. The Air Force did not play a significant role in the long Iran-Iraq war, being crippled by purges in its early stages and then being relegated to defensive duties.
The Air Force has attempted with some success to maintain in service the large number of American-built aircraft which Iran acquired during the Shah's regime. The Air Force has turned to purchases of Soviet and Chinese aircraft, as well as pressing ex-Iraqi aircraft into service, and indigenously built aircraft, in order to maintain a capable force.

History


The IRIAF came into being when the former Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) was re-named following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, in February 1979. The British publishing company Orbis' Warplane partwork magazine seems to indicate the renaming did not actually take place until after the Iran-Iraq War had broken out.

This "new" Iranian air force largely inherited the equipment and structure of the former IIAF, even losing most of its leading officers in the course of post-revolutionary chaos, as well as due to the prosecution of those considered as loyal to the Shah, pro-U.S. or elsewhere by the new government in Tehran.

Due to strained relations with the west, Iran had to procure new equipment from Brazil, Russia and the People's Republic of China. Since the Revolution, the exact composition of the IRIAF is hard to determine, but estimates do exist. Many aircraft belonging to the Iraqi Air Force took refuge in Iran during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, and many were put into service with the IRIAF or taken apart for spare parts.
Due to the continuous spare parts shortages faced by the air force, a decision was made in the late 1980s to develop a local aerospace industry to support the air force.

In 2002, Iran with the co-operation of Ukraine, successfully started the manufacture of the Iran-140; a licence-built version of the Antonov An-140 transport aircraft. Simultaneously, Iran began construction of two domestically-produced fighters, upgraded using technology from the F-14 Tomcat and the F-5 Tiger II. The fighters have been named the Azarakhsh and the Shafaq.
Since then the country has also become self-sufficient in the manufacture of helicopters. The country claims that it is capable of producing the old U.S. AH-1 Cobra gunship. Additionally, Iran also produces Bell Helicopter Bell 212 and Bell 206 helicopters in serial production. These are known respectively as the Shabaviz 2-75 and the Shabaviz 206.
Iran–Iraq War (1980-88).

A series of purges and forced retirements resulted in the manpower of the service being halved between February 1979 and July 1980, leaving the IRIAF ill-prepared for the Iran–Iraq War (also called the "1st Persian Gulf War"). The sudden Iraqi air strikes against six Iranian airfields and four other military installations, launched on the afternoon of 22 September 1980, came as a complete surprise and caused a shock in the IRIAF.

The Iranians retaliated with operation Kaman-99 which involved 206 F-4, F-5 and F-14 aircrafts. 23 September 1980, Iran launched Operation Kaman 99 as 40 F-4 Phantoms, armed with Mark 82, Mark 83 and Mark 84 bombs and AGM-65 Maverick missiles, took off from Hamadan. After refueling in mid-air the Phantoms reached the Iraqi capital Baghdad, where they attacked: al-Rashid, al-Habbaniyah and al-Kut airbases. Meanwhile, eight More F-4s took off from Tehran and launched a second attack on the al-Rashid airbase.

Iran launched 58 F-5E Tiger IIs from Tabriz, which were sent to attack Mosul Airbase. After the attack on Mosul Airbae, 50 F-5Es attacked Nasiriyah Airbase, which was heavily damaged.
As all 146 Iranian F-4s and F-5s had been sent for a bombing raid on Iraq, 60 F-14 Tomcats were scrambled to defend Iranian airspace against a possible Iraqi retaliation. Iranian F-14s managed to down 2 Iraqi MiG-21s (1 MiG-21RF and 1 MiG-21MF) and 3 Iraqi MiG-23s (MiG-23MS), an Iranian F-5E also shot down an Iraqi Su-20 during the operation. Iraqi MiG-23s managed to down 2 F-5Es, while Iraqi MiG-21s also downed 2 F-5Es. Iraqis also by mistake shot down one of their own Il-76MD strategic airlifters with a SA-3 SAM.

The Iraqis however were well prepared for the attack and had flown over most of their air force to other Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, this made sure that most of the Iraqi Air Force survived the operation.
Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military were dealt a heavy blow when Iranian Air Force vulnerabilities failed to materialize. All Iraqi airbases near Iran were out of order for weeks and, according to Iran, Iraq's aerial efficacy was reduced by 55%. This allowed Iranians to regroup and prepare for the upcoming Iraqi invasion.
Although the readiness rates of the IRIAF significantly increased in the following months, its overall role and influence declined, as the clerical government prioritized resources for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) militias and simultaneously attempted to develop a separate air arm for this service.

After the successful liberation of most Iranian areas captured by the Iraqis in the first half of 1982, the situation of the IRIAF changed completely. From an air arm that was offensive by nature, it was largely relegated to air defense and relatively infrequent bombing attacks against targets of industrial and military significance inside Iraq. Simultaneously, the IRIAF had to learn how to maintain and keep operational its large fleet of U.S.-built aircraft and helicopters without outside help, due to American sanctions. Relying primarily on antiquated equipment purchased from the U.S.A. in the 1970s, the Iranians began establishing their own aerospace industry; their efforts in this remained largely unrecognized until recently.

The IRIAF was able to obtain limited amounts of spare parts and weapons for its American-made aircraft during the Iran-Contra Affair, when Iran was able to buy American spare parts and weapons for its armed forces. Deliveries came via Israel and later, from the USA.

During 1984 and 1985, the IRIAF found itself confronted by an ever better organized and equipped opponent, as the Iraqi Air force - reinforced by deliveries of advanced fighter-bombers from France and the Soviet Union - launched numerous offensives against Iranian population centers and oil-export hubs. These became better known as "The Tanker War" and "The War of the Cities". To defend against an increasing number of Iraqi air strikes, the IRIAF leaned heavily on its large fleet of Grumman F-14 Tomcat air superiority fighters. Tomcats were mainly deployed in defense of the strategically-important Khark Island (main hub for Iranian oil exports), and Tehran. Over 300 air-to-air engagements against IrAF fighters, fighter-bombers, and bombers, were fought in these areas alone between 1980 and 1988.

Confronted with the fact that it could not obtain replacements for equipment lost in what became a war of attrition against Iraq, the IRIAF remained defense-orientated for the rest of the conflict, conserving its surviving assets as a "force in being". From late 1987, the IRIAF found itself confronted also with U.S. Navy fighters over the Persian Gulf. A number of confrontations that occurred between August 1987 and April 1988 stretched available IRIAF assets to the limit, almost exhausting its capability to defend Iranian air space against Iraqi air strikes.

Post Iran-Iraq War

Immediately after the end of the Iran–Iraq War, the IRIAF was partially rebuilt through limited purchases of MiG-29 fighters and Su-24 bombers from the Soviet Union, as well as F-7M and FT-7 fighters from China. While providing needed reinforcement to the Iranian Air Force, these types never replaced the older, U.S.-built F-4 Phantoms, F-14s (the IARIAF is now the only air arm in the world using the fighter), or F-5s. Instead, the IRIAF continued its efforts to keep these types in service, and began a number of projects to refurbish and upgrade them.

During the 1991 Gulf War, numerous Iraqi pilots flew Iraqi Air Force aircraft to Iran to avoid destruction by coalition forces. The Iranians impounded these aircraft and never returned them, putting them in service in the IRIAF and claiming them as reparations for the Iran–Iraq War. The aircraft included several Mirage F1s, MiG-25 Foxbats, MiG-21 Fishbeds, MiG-27s, Su-24s, MiG-29s, Su-20s, Su-22M Fitters, Su-25 Frogfoots, MiG-23s, and a number of Il-76s, including the secret, one-off AEW-AWACS Il-76 "ADNAN 1" prototype.
In 2006, after Iranian media published a series of reports suggesting that Venezuela was interested in selling its 21 F-16 Fighting Falcons to Iran, a Hugo Chavez adviser confirmed to the Associated Press that "Venezuela's military is considering selling its fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to another country, possibly Iran, in response to a U.S. ban on arms sales to President Hugo Chavez's government". In response, Sean McCormack, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, warned Venezuela that "without the written consent of the United States, Venezuela can't transfer these defense articles, and in this case F-16s, to a third country".
According to Moscow Defense Brief, Russia delivered 6 Su-25UBK ground attack fighter-trainers, 12 Mi-171Sh military transport helicopters, 21 Mi-171 transport helicopters, and 3 Mi-17B-5 medical helicopters to Iran between 2000 and 2006. A $700 million repair and modernization program of the IRIAF MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters was also completed.
On 22 September 2009, an IRIAF Il-76 collided with an F-5E shortly after an annual parade in Tehran and crashed near Varamin, killing all seven people on board.

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Current composition

 

The IRIAF composition has changed very little since 1979. The first, very limited re-location of several units - including disbandment of some, and establishing of new squadrons - occurred in autumn 1980, when the F-4D-fleet was concentrated at Shiraz, two squadrons of F-4Es moved from Shiraz to Hamedan, and a squadron of F-14 Tomcats deployed to Mehrabad. Other deployments during the war with Iraq were mainly of temporary character, even if a major re-organization of existing air-defense assets - foremost SAM- and AAA-units - was undertaken in 1985. There has been no major re-organization during all of the 1990s either.

Equipment, capabilities and combat performance of the IRIAF strongly influenced the development of the Iraqi Air Force (IrAF), during the 1980s, but also that of the United Arab Emirates Air Force, in the 1990s and the most recent times.

Source: Jane's Sentinel1993

Tactical Air Base

Location

Type

Unit

TAB 1

Mehrabad

F-5E

squadron

 

Mehrabad

F-7M

squadron

 

Mehrabad

F-14A/MiG-29

squadron

 

Mehrabad

C-130H/Il-76

squadron

 

Mehrabad

F 27/Falcom

squadron

TAB 2

Tabriz

F-4D/E

squadron

 

Tabriz

F-5E

squadron

 

Tabriz

F-7M

squadron

 

Tabriz

C-130H

flight

TAB 3

Hamadan

F-6

squadron

 

Hamadan

F-7M

squadron

TAB 4

Dezful

F-4D/E

squadron

TAB 4

Dezful

F-5E

squadron

TAB 5

not identified

 

 

TAB 6

Bushehr

F-4D/E

squadron

 

Bushehr

F-7M

flight

 

Bushehr

C-130H

flight

TAB 7

Shiraz

F-5E

squadron

 

Shiraz

F-14A/MiG-29

squadron

 

Shiraz

C-130H/Il-76

squadron

 

Shiraz

F-27

flight

 

 

Alleged purchases

 

Su-30

The Jerusalem Post reported that Iran has signed an arms deal with the Russian Rosoboronexport arms group to buy 250 Su-30 MKM warplanes and 20 Il-78 MKI aerial tankers. It is reported that Israeli defense officials were investigating the potential Iran-Russia deal, in which Iran would pay $1 billion a dozen squadrons’ worth of the jets. Iran and Russia have both denied this and have rejected these claims as propaganda. In a recent broadcast the "Mehr News Agency" has reported that they (the reporters) saw a dozen Su 30s in a maneuver that took place on 15 and 16 September 2008; further the report reads: "In this joint maneuver of the IRIAF and the AFAGIR which is called the 'Guardians of the Nations Skies' the Air Forces of Iran have tested domestically developed systems as well as newly purchased systems (from Russia and China)." The harsh warnings of Israel that it could attack Iran at any time and the Russo-American conflict over Georgia have led to reported weapons sales to Iran by Russia, but so far there have no details been revealed by either side.

J-10

The Russian news agency Novosti reported that Business & Financial Markets said Iran has signed a deal with China to buy two squadrons/24 of J-10 fighter planes with Russian-made AL-31FN engines. The total cost of the planes is estimated at $1 billion, and deliveries are expected between 2008 and 2010. China denied that it had agreed to sell its home-grown fighter jets to Iran, saying no talks had taken place. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters: "It's not true, it is an irresponsible report, China has not had talks with Iran on J-10 jets."

JF-17 Thunder

According to Global Security, in July 2003 Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Corporation (CAIC) unveiled the new ‘Super-7’ or Chao Qi fighter plane to the public, China supposedly received orders from Iran. The plane, now called the FC-1 is an export version of the JF-17 Thunder and entered production in 2006. As of 2008 Iran hasn't received any such plane.

 

Aircraft inventory

 

Aircraft

Country of Manufacture

Type

Year(s) Produced

Iranian Designation

In Service

Notes

Air superiority fighter

Dassault Mirage F1

France

Air-superiority

1991

 

24

Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force seized over 24 F1EQ and F1BQ flown over from Iraq during the gulf war in 1991.

Mig-29A/UB

Soviet Union

Air-superiority

 

 

40

MiG-29B (Fulcrum-A) and MiG-29UB

Multirole

Shenyang F-6 Farmer

China

Multirole

1960s

F-6

18

being phased out.The J-6's participation in the Iran-Iraq War were mostly ground attack sorties performed by both Iranian and the Iraqi J-6 units.

F-14A Tomcat

United States

Multirole

1974-1979

 

44

20 operational

F-4D/E Phantom II

United States

Multirole

1960s

 

65

Originally Ordered 225, being phased out.

F-5A/B/E/F

United States

Multirole

1965

 

60

60 or 75 F-5E and F operational. Originally Ordered 166 F-5 and 15 additional RF-5E, While receiving the F-5E and F, Iran started selling its F-5A and Bs to other countries including Ethiopia, Turkey, Greece and South Vietnam; by 1976, they were all sold apart from some F-5Bs retained for training.

HESA Saeqeh

Iran

Multirole

2007-present

 

5 (24)

Iran claims a squadron (24) is being formed with 5 aircraft confirmed to exist (via Photographic evidence).

Interceptor

F-7M Airguard

China

Interceptor

 

 

17

 

Close air support

Sukhoi Su-25

Soviet Union

Close air support

N/A

 

13

7 ex-Iraqi aircraft, 6 ordered from Russia

Ground-attack aircraft

HESA Azarakhsh

Iran

Close air support

1997-2001

Azarakhsh

6

A production schedule established for 30 aircraft over the next years

Sukhoi Su-24

Soviet Union

Close air support

N/A

 

24

12 Ordered from Soviet Union, 24 ex-Iraqi aircraft

Helicopter

Agusta-Bell 206

Italy

Utility helicopter

 

AB 212

5

 

Panha Shabaviz 2061

Iran

Utility helicopter

 

AB 206A

3

 

Agusta-Sikorsky AS-61

Italy

Helicopter

 

AS-61A4

2

 

Bell 214

United States

Medium-lift transport helicopter

 

Bell 214C

25

 

Boeing CH-47 Chinook

Italy

Heavy-lift transport helicopter

 

CH-47C

4

built by Elicotteri Meridionali

Kaman HH-43 Huskie

United States

rescue helicopter

 

HH-43F

8

 

Mil Mi-8

Soviet Union

Medium-lift transport helicopter

 

Mi-8MTW

4

 

Aerial refueling

Boeing 707

United States

Aerial refueling

 

707-3J9C

10

many modified for special missions

Boeing 747

United States

Aerial refueling

 

747-100F

5

 

VIP

Dassault Falcon 20

France

VIP transport

 

 

1

 

Dassault Falcon 50

France

VIP transport

 

 

3

 

Lockheed JetStar

United States

VIP transport

 

JetStar II

1

 

Trainer

Beechcraft Bonanza

United States

trainer

 

F33C

20

 

Embraer EMB 312 Tucano

Brazil

Basic trainer

 

 

15

 

Fajr-3

Iran

Trainer

 

F.3

N/A

 

IAMI Parastoo

Iran

Trainer

 

 

12

 

HESA Simorgh

Iran

Trainer

 

 

 

 

Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer

Switzerland

Trainer

 

 

20

 

PAC Mushshak

Sweden Pakistan

Trainer

 

Mushshak

23

A Version of Saab Safari built by Pakistan

Dorna/Tazarv

Iran

Advanced trainer

 

N/A

2

25 planned for 2010

Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star

United States

Advanced trainer

 

T-33A

5

 

Transport

Fokker F27 Friendship

Netherlands

Tactical airlift

 

F27-400M


F27-600

11


3

 

Harbin Y-12

China

Utility transport

 

 

8

 

Ilyushin Il-76

Russia

Strategic transport

 

 

15

 

Lockheed C-130 Hercules

United States

Tactical transport

 

C-130E


C-130H

15

At least 15 C-130s still in use.

Pilatus PC-6 Porter

Switzerland

Utility transport

 

 

12

 

Rockwell Commander 690

United States

Utility transport

 

690A

4

 

Xian Y-7

China

Tactical transport

 

Y-7

14

built by Xian

Socata TB

France

Utility transport

 

TB 20


TB 200

6


6

 

Maritime Patrol

Lockheed P-3 Orion

United States

Maritime patrol

 

P-3F

5

71ASW SQN

Airborne Early Warning

Ilyushin Il-76

Soviet Union

Electronic warfare

 

Adnan-1

0

In 1991 Gulf War two IL-76AEW fled from Iraq to Iran where they remained. Only one remained operational for transport purposes, as the AWACS systems on board were no longer operational. This aircraft was destroyed in the 2009 Iranian Air Force mid-air collision on 22 September 2009.

              Previous aircraft in service included the AH-1 Cobra gunship and the one-off AEW-AWACS prototype Il-76 "ADNAN 1."

 
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