​Not Just Bought Su-35, iran Already Built an Underground Airbase For the russian Jets

russian Su-35 fighters / Illustrative photo credit: Bloomberg
russian Su-35 fighters / Illustrative photo credit: Bloomberg

Another question is, what kind of compensation for the fighters russia got, since there may be a few ways to "pay"

Permanent Mission of iran to the UN officially admitted it's country buying Su-35 fighters from russia. The iranian diplomats said the details of this deal were not to be disclosed, so the total value of the contract, the number of jets provided or delivery terms remain unknown, writes IRNA.

On the first glance, military equipment cooperation between Iran and russia is no news but we should pay closer attention to all the aspects of this deal. To start with, in September 2022, iranian air force commander Hamid Vahedi stated the intent to procure Su-35 from the russians, and the negotiations were still ongoing. Then, only in January 2023, one of the iranian MPs announced the supply of russian fighters starting in March this year.

Read more: Iranian Drones In Exchange For russia’s Su-35: How Realistic Is Such an Agreement for russia and Who Is More Threatened By It
Su-35 for the russian
Su-35 for the russian "aerospace forces" and the Su-35SE in the background – these may be soon delivered to iran. Komsomolsk-on-Amur, russia, October 2022 / Open source photo

At least 7 months passed since the declaration of intent to buy Su-35 and finalizing the contract. It looks like iranians took this time not only to bargain for a more suitable price but to prepare associated infrastructure as well.

In early February 2023, iran put its new underground airbase Eagle 44 to service, which is used to hide F-4D/E Phantom II jets. A few days later, The New York Times added a detail: during the construction of the airbase, satellites spotted an object similar to russian Su-35, maybe it was just a mock-up of this fighter.

Even if it was just a dummy, it still indicates that iran was building its Eagle 44 the way so it can potentially host russian Su-35. And it remains an open question just how long it took for iranians to rework this airbase for russian jets, as the construction of the Eagle 44 overall began back in 2013.

Constructionsite of the Eagle44 air base in iran and the alleged mock-up of a russian Su-35 / Satellite image credit: Maxar Technologies
Construction site of the Eagle44 air base in iran and the alleged mock-up of a russian Su-35 / Satellite image credit: Maxar Technologies

How exactly iran is going to pay for the russian jets is another important aspect to consider. First of all, we should rewind that iran most likely will receive Su-35SE from the contract with Egypt, the 24 planes the customer did not take because of being wary of US sanctions. The contract value of these jets was USD 2 billion, and reevaluating them now is pointless because of the specifics of how the russians set a price for their military products.

The "Egyptian" Su-35SE, which Iran is likely to receive, stand as a dead weight at the KnAAZ site, June 2022 / Satellite image credit: Maxar via Google Earth

Defence24 suggested last October that the russian Su-35s would cost about $1.5 billion and the supply may be paid by barter, for instance, by providing 2,400 drones of Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 types. Though it seems that several forms of barter will be applied at once. For example, in addition to the kamikaze drones, the iranians might give ammunition that the russian army desperately needs to keep fighting in Ukraine.

As for the prospects of iran providing ballistic missiles to russia in exchange for Su-35, it's difficult to assess at this point. Western media were saying that the Kremlin has put this scenario on hold, since it is afraid of the United States providing ATACMS to Ukraine as an answer.

The "Egyptian" Su-35SE, which Iran is likely to receive / Open source photo

Correction: the article had a critical typo in the headline, the Su-35 (Flanker-E) was confused with an F-35. Fortunately, there is no information about iran having an opportunity to get the American F-35 aircraft. The author apologizes for the inconvenience.

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