The New Iranian Air Force: Made in China

The Ghola jet: A copy of a copy. (AP photo)

The Ghola jet: A copy of a copy.
(AP photo)

The sanctions aren’t (quite) lifted, and already Iran is doing some shopping:

While UN arms sanctions against Iran are yet to be lifted following a historic deal to curb the country’s nuclear program last month, Beijing is already said to be nearing an agreement to sell and/or lease J-10 multirole fighters to Tehran.

Citing Russian military websites, Sina Military notes that the J-10A model of the jet, nicknamed “Red Eagle” by the People’s Liberation Army, will likely be Tehran’s top candidate for the acquisition.

The country’s air force basically stopped upgrading since the Islamic revolution between 1978 and 1979, the report said, adding that the F-14 fighters acquired from the US prior to the revolution remain the air force’s primary option. Iran will no doubt look to update its fleet once the UN sanctions are lifted, but any acquisition will be heavily influenced by politics and balancing interests.

Accordingly, Iran is unlikely to acquire American or European military aircraft as relations have not yet improved to that stage, Sina Military said, concluding that Tehran’s options are therefore limited to Russia’s Su-27 or MiG-29 and China’s J-10 and JF-17.


The J-10 seems to have been based on Israel’s homegrown Lavi multirole jet, which Jerusalem cancelled in order to buy American F-16s instead. The Lavi itself seems to have been inspired heavily by the F-16.

It’s believed that the Chinese use Israeli electronics, although the engines are Russian — despite years of Chinese efforts to develop an indigenous jet engine that’s actually worth a damn.

Frankly I’d rather the Iranians fritter away their Obamadollars on second-rate Chinese aircraft than on anything else they’re likely to spend them on.


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