Iran Can't Buy Parts for Its American-Made 1970s Fighter Jets. Here's What It Does Instead.

  • In Science
  • 2019-02-11 19:42:00Z
  • By Popular Mechanics

From Popular Mechanics

Iran is flying antiques.

It's not the only one. After all, we've covered the travails of America's rapidly aging Air Force, such as the fact that airmen could fly and maintain the same B-52s as their grandfathers. But at least the Pentagon has new tech and new planes in the pipeline.

The Iranian military is in a stickier predicament. Political isolation, combined with an unwillingness by many countries to sell Iran new equipment, means its fleet fighters bought in the mid-1970s-from the United States, no less-must fly on for the foreseeable future, with homegrown know-how the main thing keeping them airworthy.

Ally to Enemy

In the 1970s, Iran was a staunch ally of the United States. Ruled by the Shah and financed by oil wealth, Iran purchased huge quantities of American equipment including 166 Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II jets. Based on the F-5A/B Freedom Fighter, the Tiger II was a single-engine fighter capable of both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. A relatively low-cost, low-maintenance fighter designed for export to America's allies, the Tiger II was similar to today's F-16 Fighting Falcon. The plane is obsolete by today's standards.

The 1979 islamic revolution in Iran radically upset the country's relationship with the United States. Following the overthrow of the Shan and the Iranian hostage crisis, Washington quickly went from ally to enemy.

That presented a serious problem for the country's military. Largely using American equipment, but regarding America as an enemy, Iran's armed forces have struggled to keep the military machine going.

Reverse-Engineering the Present, Cannibalizing the Past

The story of Iran's Tiger IIs may be the most telling example. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force still operates 44 F-5Es (single seat jets) and 15 F-5Fs (two seat combat-capable trainers). In the 2000s, Iran's government instructed the military, government, and even academic world to modernize the jets to a new standard to keep them flying. As a result, today Iran can build most of the parts that make up a Tiger II, but not all of them. It appears the country still has to recycle some parts from Tiger IIs no longer flying.

AWST reports that Iran's government coordinated a Tiger II upgrade effort that ended up involving "10 top Iranian universities, 72 privately run companies, 44 suppliers and 63 science and research foundations." Today, the Iranian Turbine Industries Organization can build its own General Electric J85-GE-21 afterburning turbojet engines, the original engine that powers the Tiger II, making 80 percent of the parts. The remaining 20 percent of parts are American-made real General Electric parts likely predating the 1979 revolution.

Iran is now able to produce its own F-5F two-seater jets-mostly. The country can build almost all of the jet, with the exceptions of 5 percent of its avionics systems and 25 percent of its other components. The remaining parts are either purchased on the open market or cannibalized from non-operational Tiger IIs, of which Iran has nearly 100.

The new, modernized F-5Fs have a weird, cobbled-together list of features. The jet uses both GPS and the Russian GLONASS system for navigation. While using GLONASS makes sense, given Iran's hostility to the United States, the fact that the jet still has GPS is a bit puzzling. The radar set is an Iranian copy of a Chinese copy of an Italian radar. Short-range missile armament includes pre-revolution AIM-9J Sidewinders and Chinese air-to-air missiles.

Iran may some day buy new fighter jets, but until the regime's political isolation ends, the country's air force simply must make do.

Read more at Aviation Week & Space Technology.

('You Might Also Like',)


More Related News

Iran will not rule out possibility of military conflict with Israel
Iran will not rule out possibility of military conflict with Israel
  • World
  • 2019-02-20 21:54:55Z

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif accused Israel of engaging in "adventurism" with its bombing campaigns in Syria and said he could not rule out the possibility of a military conflict between the countries. Zarif told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Iran was in Syria

Rouhani says Iran- U.S. tensions are at
Rouhani says Iran- U.S. tensions are at 'a maximum'
  • World
  • 2019-02-20 09:52:14Z

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that tensions between Tehran and Washington were at "a maximum" rarely seen in the decades-long contentious relations of the two countries. Animosity between Washington and Tehran - bitter foes since Iran's 1979 revolution - has intensified

China, Iran meet amid efforts to preserve nuclear deal
China, Iran meet amid efforts to preserve nuclear deal

BEIJING (AP) - The Iranian foreign minister's passionate defense of his country's interests at the Munich Security Conference has made him "a famous person" in China, his Chinese counterpart told him Tuesday, as the sides met amid efforts to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

Suicide bomber who killed 27 members of Iran
Suicide bomber who killed 27 members of Iran's Guards was Pakistani: Guards commander

The man who carried out a suicide bombing which killed 27 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards near the border with Pakistan last week was Pakistani, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday, according to the Tasnim news agency. One other member of the militant cell that planned the attack was also a Pakistani citizen, the head of the Guards' ground forces, Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said. Iran has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for sheltering militants connected with attacks in the border area, although Tuesday's remarks appear to be the first time Tehran has said Pakistani citizens were directly involved in the attack.

Ahead of Saudi visit, China seeks
Ahead of Saudi visit, China seeks 'deeper trust' with Iran

China wants to deepen "strategic trust" with Iran, the Chinese government's top diplomat told Iran's foreign minister on Tuesday, days before Saudi Arabia's crown prince visits Beijing, underscoring China's difficult Middle East balancing act. China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil, but it has been trying to raise its profile, especially in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia's King Salman visited Beijing in 2017, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in China later this week.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Science

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.