Iran is looking to rebuild it’s Air Force and things may not go as planned. In an article penned by David Axe for the Daily Beast, the author notes several reasons why Iran may struggle to replace its aging aircraft.

For those who remember, the Iranians were favorites of the US Administration in the early 1970’s. The Iranian Air Force consists of primarily US based aircraft: F-14A’s (the oldest model), F-5’s, and F-4’s. Iran was able to purchase US based equipment with ease. The US talked King Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi—also known as the “shah” into buying 80 F-14 Tomcats (only 79 were delivered). The Tomcat was the premier fighter at the time.

Now that international sanctions against Iran are starting to lift due to the nuclear agreement, Iran is shopping for new fighters some 40 years later. In 2014, Iran agreed to terms with Russia to buy 48 SU-30’s. This would be a significant upgrade to Iran’s current fleet of 1970’s era fighters. The deal was so lucrative the US noted it would block the sale through the United Nations. All restrictions on weapons sales to Iran are expected to end by 2021.

Axe also points out that purchasing such a fighter ($50 million per copy) would be expensive and maybe more than Iran could afford. Even more importantly, all purchases would need to be cleared through the Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s top religious leader. That is not a done deal based off past experiences.

Alex Beltyukov / WikicommonsA Russian Su-30SM fighter jet
Alex Beltyukov / WikicommonsA Russian Su-30SM fighter jet

So what to do? It appears the Iranians have already begun to overhaul their current fleet of Tomcats. If the United States had a difficult time with Tomcat maintenance, imagine what it is like for Iran.

Rumor also has it that when the United States pulled out of Iran back in 1979, the Tomcat parts were left in bins.  However, the logistics and filing system was destroyed. This required maintenance personnel to search manually through several warehouses to find the proper replacement part.  Kind of like finding a needle in a haystack (or an AWG-9 radar in a warehouse the size of a football field).

Axe concludes that even though Iran wants to upgrade its Air Force, the possibility of that happening is slim.

You can read the full article here.