Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force(IRIAF)
The Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) was the most powerful force in the Middle East until the fall of the Shah. The roots of the Iranian Air Force were created in 1924 when aircraft were used to put down enemy warlords in the south of the country. Training and equipment was acquired from Britain. Iran (Persia at the time) was occupied during WWII by the allies. The Air Arm became an independent Air Force in 1955 under the Aviation Department of the Ministry of war , and gained F-86F Sabres. The strategic position of Iran did not go unnoticed by the USA, which began to supply large numbers of aircraft to Iran from the early 1960s. The oil in the south of the country provided the money to fuel the expanding ambition of the Shah. From 1965 onwards F-5 Freedom Fighters were supplied followed by the F-4 Phantom II in 1968. By 1970 Iran was the most powerful country in the region militarily. The willingness of the US to supply it's top of the range military hardware, such as the F-14A Tomcat and AIM-54 Phoenix showed the close relationship between the two countries. The 1979 Islamic revolution changed the situation in the country overnight and altered the balance of power in the region. No longer was Iran loyal to the US, but openly hostile. American assistance ceased and the Air Force suffered as pro-Shah officers were removed, resulting in very low service-ability levels. The Air Force was renamed to the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF).
Iraq saw it's chance to gain large tracks of Iranian Territory and launched an attack on Iran on 22th September 1980, starting the first Gulf War more commenly called the Iran-Iraq War, which was to last for eight years and turned into a war of attrition. Computer codes were broken for the vast spares inventory purchased by the Shah during the early 1980s, allowing the IRIAF to fend off repeated attacks by the Iraqi Air Force. Iran was officially neutral during the 2nd Gulf War ( Iraqi invasion of Kuwait ) but benefited when a proportion of the Iraqi Air Force sought shelter in Iran. These aircraft were seized and some were put into service.
The Aircraft involved included Falcon 50s,Mirage F1EQs,IL-76MDs,Mig-29s,Mil Mi-8/17 and Mi-24s,Su-22M-2s,Su-24Mks and Su-25Ks. The exact number of aircraft in service with the IRIAF today is difficult to judge, as is it's order of battle.Iran continues to astonish the world with it's capacity for adaptation and innovation in the field of Military aviation. Iran has been cut off from spares for it's aircraft from the Western world for over 20 years but yet manages to keep it's aircraft flying in quantity. Iran Aircraft Industries has been able to maintain and even modify the weapon system of US Fighters like F-4,F-5 and F-14 in spite of sanctions. Nowadays Iran is developing it's own indigenous aircraft with a number of projects running. The Azarakhsh (Lightning) is allegedly a scaled-up version of the F-5E .The Azarakhsh is a light fighter and ground attack aircraft, weighing around 8,000 kg (3,600 lbs) and with a payload of 4,000 kg. It has an Iranian-designed radar with "certain critical components" of Russian origin.
Production schedule has been established for 30 aircraft over the next three years. Another project is the Sa'eqeh-80, an advanced twin finned, twin-engined fighter in the class of the YF-17/F-14.The Sa'eqeh-80 is expected to make it's maiden flight in 2003 and is said to be substantially different from any other aircraft in the IRIAF, or anywhere in the world. Another interesting project is the Tazarv (Eagle) a single-engined jet trainer. The Tazarv has been designed to specific Iranian requirement for an aircraft capable of fulfilling the basic phase of training, as well as advanced Lead-In-Fighter training. The Tazarv is powered by a General Electric J85-13 engine from the F-5E, with the afterburner removed.
The first prototype of another Iranian Jet Trainer, the Tondar was reported to have flown for the first time in 2001. All of these indigenous programmes are clear evidence of Iran's determination to achieve self-sufficiency for it's Armed Forces with the IRIAF in particular. In 2001, Russia and Iran signed a military-technical cooperation deal. Without disclosing any details in regard to potential arms sales, the Russian Defence Minister mentioned that Russia was ready to sell Iran defensive weapons. The agreement, which may earn Russia as much as $300 million a year, comes amid concerns in the West that Iran may be among the countries supporting terrorist activity. Russia was already trading with Iran before 1995. We were actively selling the Iranians MIG-29s and SU-24s and divisions of complexes S-200VE. But after the Gore-Chernomyrdin memorandum, that blocked Russia's military cooperation with Iran, Russia agreed to break all the contracts that it had. Russia agreed to fulfill the contracts that were broken in 1995 as well as to sell more armaments to Iran.
Iranian Aerospace Projects:
- Shafagh / Shafaq:
Shafaq is an advanced Light Attack/Trainer aircraft designed by the Aviation University Complex (AUC), part of the Malek Ashtar University of Technology. At the start of the program Iran received help from Russia and the aircraft was back then known as ''Integral'', Russia later backed away from this project due to several reasons and Iran carried on the project by itself and the aircraft became known as ''Shafaq''.
The Shafaq is a sub-sonic aircraft, made of radar-absorbing material. It has a large leading edge root extension (LERX) and a root aft of the wing which gives it an unusual circular sub-section. A 1/7 scale model of the Shafaq has already completed testing in the AUC's wind tunnel and pictures have already been revealed which show that a Full-scale model has already been built. The Shafaq will be built in several variants which include a Two-Seater Trainer, Two-Seater Light Attack and a One-Seater Light Attack variant. Roll-out of the first prototype is scheduled for 2008.
The JT2-2 Tazarve has been built by the IRIAF Owj Industrial Complex, which has been referred to as the Ya Hossein Project. The Tazarve is the third version of a prototype jet trainer called 'Dorna', which first flew eight years ago. A second version which included a number of improvements of the prototype and which was referred to as 'Thunder', flew some ''two to three years afterwards'' and eventually leading to the first flight of the Tazarve in 2000. Personnel at the Ya Hossein Project believe the Tazarve will eventually fulfil a role as basic and advanced jet trainer.
There will also be a Close Air Support version, which the complex hopes to work on next. An initial batch of five ordered by the IRIAF will be used in all aspects of testing, flight training and structural tests, and the same body has ordered another 25 aircraft to carry out the pilot training role currently being fulfilled by the F-5B. The IRIAF hopes aims to construct a purpose-built factory for manufacturing the aircraft ; it has been estimated that the Tazarve will cost as little as $2 million to built. The engine is a General Electric J-85-17, with its afterburners removed. The Tazarve jet trainer is the hallmark of Iran's indigenous aerospace industry and will teach the country's design engineers and technicians new lessons.
When the IRIAF was short of two-seat jet trainer aircraft, HESA embarked on a program called ''Simorgh'' to convert stored Northdrop F-5A's into F-5B two-seater models. So far six F-5As have been converted and the seventh is due to be rolled out shorthly, apparently a total of 13 F-5As will be upgraded. The modification necessitated to reconstruction of almost the entire front section. All the F-5As and converted F-5Bs are currently stored at HESA's Shanin Shahr factory where the conversions are carried out.
The IIAF acquired over 100 F-5As during the 1960s and early 1970s. Most were sold to the South Vietnam Air Force, Greece or Jordan, eventually leaving the IRIAF with the 13 which are now either converted or awaiting conversion.
- AH-1J Cobra / Project 2091:
Iran still operates at least 97 Cobras out of the 202 originally delivered by the Bell Helicopter Company to the Imperial Army. They performed brilliantly during the Iran-Iraq War, though they suffered a heavy loss rate to enemy fire.
Project 2091 is upgrade program for the AH-1Js by HESA and includes a new and more aerodynamic 'flat plate' canopy, installation of a Multi-Function Display in the front cockpit and a modified nose housing a FLIR (Forward-Looking infra-red) device. According to HESA, the company has been repairing and upgrading some of the helicopters severely damaged in the Iran-Iraq war. Five upgrades have been completed and eventually upgrades could reach 50. There is also a second, more ambitious plan to upgrade the Cobra even further with a four-bladed composite system with a mast-mounted FLIR and an IR (Infra-Red) jammer on the engine nacelles as well as modified shrouded tail rotor.
- F-14A Tomcat:
In August of 1973, the Shah selected the F-14 Tomcat, and the sale was approved by the US government in November of 1972. The initial order signed in January of 1974 covered 30 Tomcats, but in June 50 more were added to the contract.The Iranian Tomcats were virtually identical to the US Navy version, with only a few classified avionics items being omitted. The base site for Iranian Tomcat operations was at Isfahan’s (Khatami Air Force Base) and 1 Squadron at Shiraz Tactical Fighter Base. The Iranian Tomcats were fairly late on the production line, and were therefore delivered with the TF30-P-414 engine, which was much safer than the compressor-stall-prone P-412 engine. The first of 80 Tomcats arrived in Iran in January of 1976. Following the Islamic revolution, massive numbers of contracts with Western arms suppliers were cancelled by the new government, including an order for 400 AIM-54A Phoenix missiles for the F-14 Tomcats. This arms embargo against Iran imposed by the West caused a severe spare parts and maintenance problem. In the mid-1970 many F-14s were kept in storage as attrition reserve. The main base for the IRIAF is at Esfahan, which was purposely built for the F-14s with special facilities and hangars. Iran’s aircraft industry (SAHA) overhauls the F-14 and is capable of producing their own F-14 spares. The F-14 is also used as a mini-Awacs aircraft with it's powerful AN/AWG-9 radar.
In 1985 Iran shocked the world (especially the US) when a formation of 25 Tomcats overflew Tehran. It was a miracle how Iran kept it's Tomcats flying even though they had been cut from (official) spares suppliers and it proves Iran's ingenuity and ability to reverse-engineer. This ability should ensure that the type is still available to undertake limited long-range interception missions at low sortie rates. Since the end of the eight-year long conflict, numerous enhancement projects have been performed on the type, including increasing the AWG-9's range, and integrating the R-73 AAM and various air-to-ground weapons with the aircraft. Iran is also working hard on a project to reverse-engineer and manufacture the AIM-54A Phoenix longe-range air-air missile locally.
- F-4E/D Phantom II:
The IRIAF received it's first Phantom in 1968 out of a total of 225 ordered. Which were 32 F-4D’s, 177 F-4E’s and 16 RF-4E’s.By the time that the Shah was forced to flee, Iran had 188 operational Phantoms. However, the arms embargo against Iran imposed by the West caused a severe spare parts and maintenance problem. Today some 70 F-4 Phantoms remain in service with the IRIAF. In the Iran-Iraq war the Phantom proved to be a very capable & reliable aircraft and was very popular with the pilots. According to report Iranian technicians have succeeded in upgrading the Phantom's APQ-120 Radar (Thanks to APQ-120 spares from Israel), by improving it's range and adding a Airborne Moving Target Indicator.
In the Iran-Iraq War the IRIAF Phantoms took part in deep penetration raids against targets in and around Baghdad and supported ground operations at the front. Fighter-vs-fighter combat was rather rare throughout the entire course of the Iran-Iraq war. The IRIAF has also modified several of its Phantoms to carry and fire the the Kh-58 anti-radiation missile with its associated targeting pod, as well as R-73 and PL-7 short range air-to-air missiles. In another atttempt at revitilisation, the IRIAF's self-sufficiency task force doubled the range of the APQ-120 radar of the F-4E, and added automatic targeting and moving target indication (MTI) capabilities.
- F-5 A/B/E/F Tiger II:
The first F-5 Freedom fighters arrived in Iran in 1965. Iran ordered 103 F-5A’s and 23 F-5SB’s which were later sold on to Vietnam, Turkey, Greece and Ethiopia. In their place Iran received F-5E/F Tiger IIs. The first examples were delivered in January of 1974, when 28 F-5Fs were received in Iran for conversion training. A total of 166 F-5E/Fs were supplied to Iran between 1974 and 1976.
The Imperial Iranian Air Force F-5E/Fs were equipped to a high standard, with an onboard Litton inertial navigation system and weapons/ballistic computer. The Iranians found it extremely difficult to keep their F-5 fleet operational all throughout the Iran-Iraq war. The lack of spare parts caused by the arms embargo plus the general lack of adequate numbers of trained maintenance personnel made things even worse. With sanctions imposed on Iran, no spares were left for the F-5 and many aircraft became unserviceable and others being cannibalized to keep the remainder flying. The IRIAF has upgraded their remaining Tigers called the ''Offogh-project'', which improved the range of the F-5 APQ-159 radar and enabling the aircraft to carry advanced missiles like the PL7, AIM-9P Sidewinders and R-60 Aphids. The remaining F-5's are nearing their end of operational life and the IRIAF is seeking a replacement.
- MiG-29A/UB Fulcrum:
In the early 1990's Iran received some 24 Mig-29A/UBs, delivered in two batches to equip 2 squadrons. In 1991 these were joined by 4 ex-Iraqi Air Force Mig-29s, who flew to Iran for safety during the Gulf War. Iran did place on order for more Mig-29s with Russia, but these were never delivered when Russia promised the United States that it would not conclude any additional contracts with Iran, and it subsequently agreed to cease all arms transfers. The Iran Mig-29s were overhauled at Tabris, with unknown modification in their avionics.
Like those Mig-29s delivered to other countries, the Mig-29s delivered to Iran lacked the capability to carry under-wing external fuel tanks. However, several years ago the IRIAF undertook a project called Khorsid which equipped the aircraft with an indigenously-developed 99-lmp gallon (450-litre) external fuel tank under the wing. The Mig-29UB is used in Iranian service for advanced trainer maneuvering training, and is based at Tehran and Tabriz. The airframes are overhauled at Tabriz, while the RD-33 engines still go to Russia.
- Su-24MK Fencer:
In the early 1990's Iran received some 12 Su-24MKs to equip one squadron, these were joined by 24 ex-Iraqi Su-24MKs who flew to Iran during the Gulf War. IRIAF Su-24s were given a in-flight refueling capability when they received refueling probes, thanks to Iranian ingenuity.The aircraft are also able to carry the Upaz-A buddy refuelling system to extend the range of other aircraft. The Su-24MK is the export version of the Su-24 with slightly downgraded avionics
The Su-24 front line bomber is designed to penetrate hostile territory and destroy ground and surface targets in any weather conditions, by day and night. The Fencers, Iran's main strike aircraft, could be used to deliver nuclear weapons if Iran ever acquires one of appropriate size and weight. Long range strike missions can be undertaken by the Su-24MK 'Fencer-Ds'. based at Shiraz and Mehrabad.
- C-130 Hercules:
Since 1962, The Imperial Iranian Air Force received 4 C-130Bs, 28 C-130Es and 30 C-130Hs. The Bs and some of the Es were disposed of in 1976. The long arms embargo starting after the Islamic revolution in 1979 on Iran have took a toll on the large Iranian fleet and only 10 are believed to be flyable today. One C-130 Hercules transport plane crashed in a mountainous region of northeast Iran after the engine failed. 86 people died, including members of the Revolutionary Guard and other army personnel.
- Boeing 707-3J9C:
The IRIAF operates some 8-10 Boeing 707-3J9Cs today which are used for transport and tanker role. Iran received six Boeing 707-3J9C fitted with air refuelling booms. Wingtip-mounted hose-and-drogue system were added 'In-country'. Two 707-3J9C were reportely converted to the "Roving Eye/Path Finder" configuration for SIGINT (signals intelligence) missions.
- Boeing 747F-2J9/131:
The IRIAF operates eight Boeing 747 in different configurations. Two ex-Iraqi Boeing 747 were impounded in Iran after they flew to Iran from Iraq during the Gulf War. Several AAR boom and receptacle equipped 747-100 tankers were supplied to Iran during the mid to late 1970s. Some Boeing 747 also serve as an Airborne Command Post.
- IR.AN 140 Faraz:
HESA is currently working on a military version on the IR.AN 140 Faraz, which include a maritime patrol variant and a tactical cargo version. The first steps is preparing the technical designs of the types. The Iranian military has given HESA it's requirements, and the company is discussing co-operation with three other unknown companies. The sophisticated equipment which would fitted in the maritime variants is understood to be on offer Thales. HESA is currently assembling 80 IR.AN 140 Farazs with one already complete and the second is already assembled and expected to make it's first flight within 3 months.
- Il-76 MD Candid / Adnan-1:
Iran inherited eleven Iraqi Il-76 Candids, though all were originally grounded for a considerable period of time. These aircraft were operated by the IRIAF at Shiraz before the Iranian Republic Guard Command (IRGC) took over most of the aircraft.The IL-76 is a medium-range military transport aircraft, and is also known by the NATO codename 'Candid'. The missions of the aircraft are: to drop paratroopers; carry troop forces and combat materiel with crews and armaments, including medium-sized battle tanks; to airlift cargo for troop forces; and transport for disaster relief operations. The IL-76MD variant has an increased flight range and service life and carry up to 47 tons of cargo.
The Il-76 Adnan-1 AEW&C was an Iraqi development of an Il-76MD military transport aircraft based on the A-50 'Mainstay' with a Thompson-CSF (now Thales) Tiger-G radar which has a range of about 350km. Two were flown out to Iran during the Gulf war, one is in service with IRIAF today while the second aircraft is going through a upgrade programme.
El ORBAT completo de la IRIAF lo puedes encontrar aqui: http://www.scramble.nl/ir.htm
Saludos desde Flandes