Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Busy Arms Market

Russia is doing a jet deal with Iran:

Sukhoi 30 fighter jetIsrael is looking into reports that Russia plans to sell 250 advanced long-range Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to Iran in an unprecedented billion-dollar deal.

According to reports, in addition to the fighter jets, Teheran also plans to purchase a number of aerial fuel tankers that are compatible with the Sukhoi and capable of extending its range by thousands of kilometers. Defense officials said the Sukhoi sale would grant Iran long-range offensive capabilities.

IntelliBriefs says that Israel and the US complained about the sale, but I’m not sure what there is to worry about, unless it is also selling Russian jet pilots to go along with these sophisticated planes. Iran is having a hard time keeping up its infrastructure and it got rid of all those superbly trained pilots a generation ago. Does the billion dollar price tag include personnel or training for the two aircraft?

The Sukhoi-30 is a two-seat multi-role fighter jet and bomber capable of operating at significant distances from home base and in poor weather conditions. The aircraft enjoys a wide range of combat capabilities and is used for air patrol, air defense, ground attacks, enemy air defense suppression and air-to-air combat.

Like the sale of the jdams to Saudi Arabia by the US, one has to wonder if there are sufficiently-trained personnel capable of using the armaments. We’re not talking IEDs here.

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Leaving aside the economics of the situation, would any military readers care to discuss the ramifications of American and Russian sales of military supplies to various factions in the Middle East?

Here’s what one commenter from Eye on the World says:

All the gear, no idea comes to mind.

Saudi Arabia on paper has one of the most formidable armed forces in the world. However they haven’t a clue in how to keep all that equipment in working order.

And as such has one of the most expensive scrap yards in the region.

Iran which acquitted itself very well against Iraq in the air using American planes. Hasn’t the expertise or the pilots (or the fuel) in which to keep such an expensive folly in the air. Let’s be honest here. Any airwave approaching from Iran (or Syria for that matter) will last approximately 2 minutes due to the active nature of the Israeli missile defensive system. (Mind you when Hezbollah flew that UAV over Israel last year it transpired that the Arrow missile system guarding that area had been switched off)

But with Su 30s in Iranian hands I can’t see that happening. Regional defence then yes the plane has the home advantage. Attacking Israel then it will lose big time.

Hat Tip: Kepiblanc

[post ends here]


Spence said...

Nuclear weapons are sophisticated as well, but we still fear them in the hands of Iranians. The bottom line is that while the Saudis may have a powerful military on paper they haven't shown the will to use it offensively. Iran on the other hand will use what it has at any cost, which is why we fear nuclear weapons in their hands, because if they have them they'll use them. If they get these jets they're likely to use them. The only hope I have is that they'll use their jets rather than nukes.

X said...

One thing the Russians always managed with their hardware was to make it easy enough for illeterates to use. Most of their armed forcs were conscripts, and by the nature of the country a large proportion of them were illiterate or barely literate.

Of course the airforce are always a bit of an elite, but even so it would surprise me if their aircraft weren't fairly easy to learn to handle.

George Bruce said...

In the case of the Saudis, I imagine that their gear came with "civilian" contractors to maintain and even operate the stuff.

I wouldn't be surprised if Russian technicians and even pilots came with the Iranian deal. There is historical precedent for such.

Dymphna said...

Yes, even though as Archonix proposes, the planes themselves may be simple (to fly?), maintenance and repair require some degree of smarts.

And the skill required to refuel in midair (they rec'd two of those) would be more than basic flying.

Still, the personnel probably come with the aircraft.

karyakarta92 said...

Folks, we should not under-estimate the Iranians. Unlike the Saudi Arab barbarians, the Iranians are heirs to the great Persian civilization, although that is largely negated by the deleterious effects of islam.
The Sukhoi 30 is a very potent platform. Many squadrons serve in the Indian air force.
This is a serious development.

Axel said...

I concur with the other commentators here: Don't underestimate the Iranians. They're not Arabs, they're Persians. They're just developping nukes - on their own, with their own scientists and plants. They will easily train their pilots to a level that poses a serious threat to Israeli jets. They will be assisted in doing so by Russian engineers and military personnel, any bet that's part of the deal. Anything else would be stupid - you don't buy 250 expensive jets if you know you can't use them properly. And the mullahs are not stupid, no matter what else we think about them or islam in general. The Russians would even be happy to lend pilots to the Iranians - they would probably get iranian passports and convert to islam to make it all kosher. Remember the North Vietnamese airforce, flown and equipped by Russians.

Don Miguel said...

"Remember the North Vietnamese airforce, flown and equipped by Russians."

Equipped by the Russians, but mostly flown by Chinese and North Vietnamese pilots. And once the Navy instituted the Top Gun school, the USN got a much better kill ratio. While the Iranians should not be underestimated, the Russians will not be able to "easily train their pilots to a level that poses a serious threat to Israeli jets." That takes a lot of time and training that the Russians won’t be able to supply (especially for several years). The American training model, which the Israelis use, is far superior to that of the Russians and as Chuck Yeager proved over and over, the better pilot beats the better plane. I’ll take the F-15’s 100-0 kill ratio and Israeli pilots any day over any current Russian jet and Russian-trained pilots.