Russia to supply Iran with advanced Su-35 fighter jets

Iranians are already training on the Sukhoi-35 planes, according to intelligence sources.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

American intelligence officials believe that Russia is on the verge of a huge arms deal with Tehran that includes supplying the Islamic Republic with two dozen of its advanced fighter jets, Channel 12 reported Saturday.

According to the report, Iranian pilots are already training in Russia on the Su-35 Sukhoi jets, cruise missile-carrying fighters that according to the Russians can reach a speed of Mach 2.5 and have a range of over 3,500 km, making Israel quickly and easily within striking distance from Iran.

The planes are said to be part of a weapons deal Russia had had with Egypt, before the United States nixed the plan. Russia, under a tight weapons embargo due to its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, has been searching for customers for the $43 million jets.

The Su-35 was introduced a decade ago, and to date Russia has only 110 of them in service itself. The Iranians are very eager to improve their air force, as most of their fighter fleet is many decades old.

Besides the full squadron of planes, the deal is said to include the most advanced Russian anti-aircraft defense system, the S-400.  This system was deployed to protect Russian military sites in Syria, worrying the IDF, which regularly strikes Iranian and Iranian-backed targets in the country.

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It has not been used against the IAF, however, as the deconfliction mechanism is still in place and the Israelis carefully stay away from the Russian bases when they attack in Syria in what is called the “war between the wars.”

The Iranians’ desire to upgrade their air defense stems from Israel’s oft-stated readiness to consider a military option to take out their nuclear bomb-making program, which Jerusalem considers an existential threat to the Jewish state. The United States, angered by Iran’s sanctions-evading aid to Russia, is also closer than it has been for a long time to threatening Iran militarily.

Tehran’s side of the deal allegedly includes supplying Russian forces with short-range, surface-to-surface missiles and 300 more “suicide” drones to go along with the 1,700 it sold Russia before its February invasion of Ukraine began. According to both Ukrainian and Western officials, these unmanned aerial vehicles are being used to great effect over the last two months to knock out vital electricity facilities and other infrastructure throughout Ukraine.

This is in addition to Iran signing off last month on Moscow producing its own UAVs based on Iranian designs. A Ynet report at the time said that the Iranians agreed both because they need the cash from the deal and because “Russian scientists and engineers have a considerable ability to improve the range, accuracy and destructive capacity of the drone.”

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Such improvement, the report noted, could very well be passed back to Iran, which would no doubt incorporate them in their next-generation UAVs, to be transferred to their proxies, especially in the Middle East.

The U.S. has already expressed concern over the impact that the deepening relationship between the two ostracized countries could have on several of its allies.

“What’s beginning to emerge is at least the beginnings of a full-fledged defense partnership between Russia and Iran, with the Iranians supplying drones to the Russians, which are killing Ukrainian civilians as we speak today,” Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) head William Burns told PBS Friday.

“I think it can have an even more dangerous impact on the Middle East as well if it continues,” the director added. “So, it’s something that we take very, very seriously.”