Iranian Drones In Exchange For russia’s Su-35: How Realistic Is Such an Agreement for russia and Who Is More Threatened By It

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russia's Su-35S / Illustrative photo from open sources
russia's Su-35S / Illustrative photo from open sources

The hypothetical agreement "fighters for drones" is extremely profitable for Iran itself, whose air force resembles a "zoo of rarities"

The American analytical center Institute for the Study of War spoke rather cautiously about the possibility of implementing an agreement between russia and Iran regarding drones.

"Preliminary and unconfirmed reports from August 2 may indicate that Iran may have sent a batch of UAVs to Russia for field testing," the center's daily report said. There is an interesting aspect: along with the drones, Iran sent pilots and technicians for training in the operation of the Su-35 multipurpose fighter.

Read more: 161 Days of the War: russian Casualties in Ukraine
Iranian Drones In Exchange For russia’s Su-35: How Realistic Is Such an Agreement for russia and Who Is More Threatened By It, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The Su-35 is a modernized Soviet Su-27 / Illustrative photo from open sources

At the same time, the Institute for the Study of War highlighted impossibility to confirm this, although this is consistent with recent reports of deepening cooperation between Iran and russia in the expansion of aviation cooperation, which has publicly only involved civilian aircraft. Moreover, in such conditions, exchanging UAVs for Su-35s becomes extremely profitable for Tehran.

The fact is that the air component of Iran now resembles a "zoo of rarities", due to sanctions since 1979. As a result, everything in the formation had been in the country before this date or was overrun by Iraqi pilots in 1991 during the escape from the Desert Storm Operation, also there are some Chinese samples.

Iranian Drones In Exchange For russia’s Su-35: How Realistic Is Such an Agreement for russia and Who Is More Threatened By It, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Mirage, Phantom and Chinese MiG-21 - all in one formation...

Therefore, the aircraft fleet of the Iranian Air Force looks as follows (according to Military Balance 2021):

F-5 - more than 75 units;

F-4 Phantom - up to 68 units;

F-14 - up to 43 units;

F-7M (Chinese copy of MiG-21) - 24 units;

MiG-29 (overrun by Iraqi pilots) - 35 units;

Mirage F-1 (overrun by Iraqi pilots) - up to 10 units;

Su-22 (overrun by Iraqi pilots) - about 10 units;

Su-24 (overrun by Iraqi pilots) - 29 units;

Su-25 (overrun by Iraqi pilots) - 10 units.

Regarding all these aircraft, it is extremely important to take into consideration the fact that these are the maximum quantitative indicators, as the Iranian Air Force suffers from a shortage of components and a certain part of these boards had to be cannibalized to maintain the flight readiness of the aircraft fleet. As for Soviet aircraft, these machines are most likely in better condition due to the highly probable smuggling of spare parts from the russian federation.

Iranian Drones In Exchange For russia’s Su-35: How Realistic Is Such an Agreement for russia and Who Is More Threatened By It, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The MiG-29 and F-14 of Iranian Air Force / Open source photo

In any case, russian fighter aircraft are absolutely necessary for Iran, as the present Iranian aircraft fleet does not give Tehran a chance in a war with any technological enemy. Moreover, such a flaw allows Israel to carry out airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities from time to time.

In these conditions, even a small number of Su-35s can already significantly strengthen Iran's air defense. Although the choice of this aircraft may seem rather strange due to its greater specialization in air combat than the Su-30, which has a greater practical functionality due to two crew members.

Iranian Drones In Exchange For russia’s Su-35: How Realistic Is Such an Agreement for russia and Who Is More Threatened By It, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
For Iran, the Su-35 is an opportunity to qualitatively increase the combat capability of air defense and protect its nuclear facilities / Open source photo

Thus, the hypothetical agreement between russia and Iran "fighters for drones" poses a much greater threat to Israel than the possibility of the appearance of Iranian UAVs with rather dubious characteristics in Ukraine.

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