After 40 years of sanctions and arms embargoes, Iran’s air force has slowly become an eclectic mishmash of aging platforms sourced through various channels. If war were to break out between Iran and the United States today, U.S. pilots would find themselves squaring off with Iranian pilots in a swarm of old American, Soviet, and Chinese jets. Some of these planes, like the Northrop F-5 Tiger II, have seen update efforts over the years. Others, however, are thought to be barely sky-worthy.
While there’s little doubt that advanced American fighters like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or the F-22 Raptor would have a long list of advantages over Iran’s ragtag fighters, that isn’t to say that the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force lacks any teeth whatsoever. In fact, some of Iran’s jets actually boast capabilities that would put even America’s fifth-generation fighters to shame.
Of course, combat isn’t about who can put the best numbers on paper, and even Iran’s best jets likely wouldn’t even see the American fighter that put them down until long after they pulled their ejection seat levers, but America’s pilots should remain cautious: Some of Iran’s jets were actually the best America had to offer at one point. While Iran has more than a dozen combat aircraft in service (in varying numbers), these are some of the first aircraft American pilots might run across in a war with Iran.
Iran’s Top Gun: The Grumman F-14 Tomcat
Prior to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the United States was working hand in hand with the nation’s monarch, even agreeing to sell them 80 of the U.S. Navy’s top-tier intercept fighters, the F-14 Tomcat. A total of 79 of these jets were delivered. With a top speed of Mach 2.34 and a combat radius of 500 miles, these air superiority fighters are faster and carry more weapons than America’s fifth-generation fighters like the F-35.
This article was written by Alex Hollings and was originally published on WE ARE THE MIGHTY.