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Russia may provide Iran with fighter jets and air defense systems to help Tehran repel possible airstrikes from Israel and the US - WP

Lilia RagutskaWorld
Russia pledges to hand over its Su-35 to Iran

Russia is stepping up defense cooperation with Iran. Moscow is currently considering transferring its fighter jets and air defense technologies to Tehran.

If these plans are implemented, it will be easier for Iran to repel possible air strikes by Israel or the United States. This was reported by The Washington Post, citing sources.

The newspaper writes that in March, the Russian arms manufacturer NNP Start invited an Iranian delegation to take a "tour" of its production facilities. The documentation leaked by the hackers characterizes this "tour" as a "demonstration of the 'scientific and technical potential and production capabilities' that Russia can offer Iran. Among the products of this sub-enterprise are S-400 systems, which, according to experts, can detect and destroy stealth fighter jets in service with the US and Israeli armies.

It is not yet known whether this "excursion" continued in the form of Iran's acquisition of such Russian weapons. However, the newspaper's sources are confident that after Iran agreed to supply Russia with thousands of its kamikaze drones and missiles for the war against Ukraine in 2022, cooperation between the two regimes has only intensified. In particular, The Washington Post writes that Russia has pledged to provide Iran with its advanced fighter jets and air defense technology to help Tehran strengthen its defense against potential future air attacks from the United States or Israel. This is the consensus of the publication's interlocutors: officials, representatives of the US, European and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies, as well as weapons experts.

Whether Russia has already begun to fulfill its obligations and, if so, how many systems Iran has already received and deployed is currently unknown. However, experts and officials fear that with Russian technology, Iran will become a more dangerous and less vulnerable adversary.

"The arms deals, some of the details of which have not been previously reported, are part of broader cooperation that includes joint production of military drones in Russia, sharing of jamming technologies, and real-time battlefield assessments of weapons deployed against NATO. The cooperation brings significant benefits to both countries, elevating Iran's status from a junior ally to a strategic partner," WP writes.

At the same time, such a transformation into a strategic partner is extremely beneficial for Iran. After all, it is not about selling or exchanging weapons but about something more, such as obtaining technology, knowledge, and intangible profits.

Western intelligence agencies claim that Russia has secretly pledged to give Iran its Su-35 jets, which are Russia's most powerful fighter-bombers to date. If this happens, Tehran will be able to "dramatically" modernize its air force, which currently consists of refurbished American and Soviet aircraft manufactured before 1979.

In addition, Russia is going to help Iran with Iranian spy satellites, as well as with the construction of rockets to send more satellites into space, the interlocutors of the publication noted.

Currently, US and Middle East intelligence agencies have no evidence of Su-35 deliveries to Iran. It is possible that there was a delay in the transfer process, which may be due to the fact that Iran did not pay for the aircraft on time.

Iran is also extremely interested in acquiring the best Russian air defense systems to protect its nuclear and military facilities from possible attacks. Thus, in 2007, Tehran even signed an agreement to purchase S-300 air defense systems, but then, under pressure from the West, Russia delayed the delivery of weapons until 2016. The S-300 appeared in Iranian service in 2019.

"Since then, Iran has been trying to acquire a more powerful S-400 system from Russia, although it is not publicly known whether Moscow has decided to provide S-400 batteries. Some variants of the S-400 are equipped with radars that can defeat the stealth technology used by modern military aircraft. Russia has deployed S-400s to protect its military bases in Syria, and these batteries pose a potentially lethal threat to US and Israeli warplanes that occasionally operate in Syrian airspace," WP notes.

And if Russia transfers the promised systems to Iran, it will be much easier for the latter to protect its important facilities, especially those related to nuclear weapons, which Tehran is developing uncontrollably and rapidly.

Such cooperation is beneficial for Russia too as it is interested in weapons that are essential for continuing the war against Ukraine.

"In addition to the thousands of drones it has purchased from Iran, Russia agreed late last year to buy about $2 billion worth of additional military goods, including anti-drone systems that have become a top priority for Russian generals in Ukraine, two intelligence officials with detailed knowledge of the deal say. Iran has separately agreed to sell Russia surface-to-surface missiles for use in Ukraine and is expected to begin transferring the weapons soon, according to a new intelligence assessment. According to officials, spy services have not yet found evidence that the missiles have been delivered," the newspaper says.

Russia and Iran are now jointly producing Iranian kamikaze drones. If the first batches of Shahed drone were sold by Tehran to Moscow so that it could "plug the holes" in its armed aggression against our country, then approximately in the middle of summer 2023, Russia began producing Iranian Shahed-136 drones at a plant in Alabuga, a city in the Tatarstan region of Russia.

According to Russian documents obtained by the publication, by the summer of 2025, the Russians plan to produce 6,000 drones, which Russia will use to strike at Ukrainian territory and vital infrastructure.

In addition, according to intelligence and leaked documents published by hackers from the Prana Network group, Moscow and Tehran have recently begun to jointly produce new types of drones.

"The documents contained details of visits by Iranian and Russian delegations to inspect the weapons of both countries. The Iranians' trip to the Start Nuclear Power Plant was described in the Russian "program" of the visit, which included inspections of defense facilities in five cities. The document was signed by representatives of Technodinamika JSC, which is the operator of the Start NPP, as well as the Russian Defense Ministry... Several documents describe a trip by a delegation of Russian engineers to Iran in April 2023 to view a demonstration of a new jet-powered drone, as well as a line of hunter-killer UAVs designed to destroy enemy drones. Both seemed to impress visitors," WP writes.

The new variants of the drones, called MS-237, Shahed-238 and Shahed-236, have a claimed top speed of about 400 miles per hour, which is three times the speed of the Shahed-136/131.

"During the demonstration, the jet drone - codenamed 'motor boat' in Russia's internal communications - 'successfully took off, completed the task... and landed on a parachute,'" a Russian report from the leaked data set reads. "Given its high speed, the boat is essentially a cruise missile."

The publication notes that Russia has signed an agreement with Iran to purchase more than 600 such drones, most of which were assembled in Russia. The leaked documents also mention Russia's payment for these UAVs: in at least two tranches, Moscow will hand over gold bullion worth about $140 million to Tehran.

The test apparently helped cement the deal to purchase more than 600 Iranian-designed jet drones, most of them built on Russian territory with Iranian parts and assistance, according to the leaked emails. The documents also describe lengthy negotiations over how Russia would pay for the drones. According to the documents, at least two tranches were to come in the form of gold bullion worth about $140 million.

Experts emphasize that if the new kamikaze drones are faster, it will be harder for air defense forces to shoot them down. In addition, since these are UAVs with jet engines of a certain type, these drones are "probably much more expensive."

For Iran, Russia's use of Iranian drones in Ukraine is important in terms of assessing their effectiveness in real combat conditions. Analyzing previous use, according to the leaked documents, Russian engineers improved the design of Iranian drones and corrected mistakes. And this will play into Iran's hands in the future.

As a reminder, on the night of April 14, Iran attacked Israel with ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as Shahed drones missiles. In total, about 300 air means were launched. Israeli air defense forces and its allies destroyed 99% of them. Only ballistic missiles reached Israeli airspace, which did not cause significant damage.

Contrary to Washington's warnings, Israel is going to respond to Iran's air attack.

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