Iranian IRGC to acquire Russian Su-35 amid closer cooperation

According to its commander, Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) intends to acquire Russian Su-35 Flanker-E fighter aircraft. If approved, it would be Iran’s largest purchase of fighter aircraft in more than 30 years.

He emphasized that the Armed Forces General Staff Headquarters, not the air force, will make the final decision. The most potent military force in Iran, the paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), will likely need to give the IRIAF one more approval. The IRGC has always preferred alternative initiatives over importing weapons to upgrade Iran’s conventional armed forces, such as the development of domestically produced armed drones and ballistic missiles.

Early in 2021, it was revealed that Iran was looking to China for 36 J-10C aircraft. It’s interesting to note that the 60 aircraft total includes both the 24 Russian Su-35 Tehran apparently requested from Moscow later that year and the 36 4.5-generation Chinese fighters. If Tehran had intended to purchase both, that would have been in line with the very reasonable predictions made in recent years that Tehran might seek to provide itself with a hedge by purchasing a combination of contemporary Russian and Chinese jets rather than become overly reliant on either Moscow or Beijing.

The IRGC keeps its own ground troops and is a comparable service to the Ground Forces. In order to defend the theocratic system, the 100,000-strong Ground Forces of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution are less heavily equipped than the regular Iranian Army.

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