Russia disrupts delivery of paid-for Su-35 fighter jets to Iran

Russia has failed to deliver to Iran a large batch of Su-35 fighter jets, which Tehran had fully paid for and expected to receive in 2023, Bourse&Bazaar reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

According to them, Tehran ordered 50 fighter jets from Moscow during the second term of President Hassan Rouhani, which ended in 2021. Russia then promised to fulfill the contract in 2023. Now, however, none of the sources among Iranian officials expect Moscow to keep its word.

The problems with the purchase of military equipment from Moscow were revealed in a statement by Iranian Air Force Commander Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi. “Regarding the purchase of Su-35 fighter jets [from Russia], we need them, but we don’t know when they will arrive in our squadron”, Vahedi told state television.

Tehran needs the new fighter jets to upgrade its air force fleet, which is mostly made up of U.S. aircraft in service before the 1979 revolution.

One Iranian security official expressed disappointment that Vahedi’s “uncoordinated interview” had drawn attention to supply problems. Iranian officials are embarrassed by Russia’s failure to fulfill its commitments, but they consider the issue too sensitive for public discussion.

To speed up Su-35 deliveries, Iran agreed last year to give Russia hundreds of drones for strikes on Ukrainian cities.

Iranian hardliners have “fallen into the trap” of considering themselves equal partners with Russia because “the Russians are standing in line to buy weapons from them”, the former diplomat said. He said the drone transfer contributed to Iran’s political isolation by giving Western officials the impression of deepening cooperation between Moscow and Tehran amid the war.

One possible reason for the delay in the Su-35 deliveries is Israeli influence, Iran believes. In June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian authorities that he was extremely concerned about Moscow’s growing military cooperation with Tehran, Axios wrote, citing several Israeli lawmakers. For its part, Israel has so far refused to supply Ukraine with offensive weapons systems, as well as the Iron Dome defense system.

In 2022, Russia lost 68 aircraft in the war against Ukraine, and was only able to put only 29 into service, data from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) showed. This included the production of seven new Su-35S. At the same time, at least 30 fighters of new types– Su-30, Su-34 and Su-35 – were lost during the fighting.

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