August 30, 2016
Iran’s Ministry of Defense said it will negotiate with Russia on the purchase of the Sukhoi aircraft. Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan told Iran’s state TV on Sunday last week.
Coming on the heels of acquiring the S-300 system from Russia, Iranian officials are looking to beef up their armament in other ways. In addition to the S-300, Iran also has a similar IADS system, the Bavar (Belief) 373. The Iranians feel their IADS (Integrated Air Defense) system is significant enough that they can concentrate on purchasing Sukhoi aircraft directly from Russia.
“We don’t need other long-range air defense systems, (in addition to the S-300 and Bavar-373), we no longer plan to purchase them. Therefore, the Iranian Defense Ministry’s agenda includes consultations with Russia on the purchase of Sukhoi aircraft. We need to strengthen our Air Force,” the Iranian Defense Minister said.
With the S-300 system in place, Iran has a very capable Surface to Air Missile system. The S-300 is a threat that must be dispensed with first for a deep penetration strike.
“The US can take on an S-300 head to head, but this becomes the “alpha target”. It has to go before anything else happens,” said Senior Naval Analyst Chris Harmer.
“And it takes a lot of effort to get to it”.
Adding a robust Iranian Air Force would make deep strike penetration into Iran even more difficult. Conventional wisdom against a regime like Iran is to gain Air Superiority first by reducing the IADS threat and enemy fighters. The second step is to gain Air Supremacy–meaning there is little to no threat against striking aircraft.
Gaining complete control of air warfare and air power over opposing forces would be much more difficult if Iran obtains new Sukhoi fighters. The current Iranian Air Force has older model fighters such as the F-14A and Mig-29A. The current composition of aircraft has not changed much since the late 1970’s and would likely be limited in capability. It was not reported what type of fighters Iran is considering purchasing from Russia.
The other concern is the balance of power in the Middle East. Current Gulf Cooperation Council members do not have the aircraft or armament to match with the S-300.
“None of our allies is even remotely in the game on this,” said Harmer. “None of the GCC countries have any idea how to handle this.”