(AFP) Iran has struck a deal to buy Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, state media reported, as the two countries deepen defense cooperation.
Iran’s sanctioned air force has an aging fleet of planes and is struggling to get spare parts to keep its warplanes in the air.
In a statement to the United Nations, Tehran said it had begun to approach “countries to buy combat aircraft” to renew its fleet in the aftermath of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
The statement, carried by the official IRNA news agency late Friday, said that “Russia has announced that it is ready to sell them” after the end in October 2020 of restrictions on Iran’s purchase of conventional weapons under UN Resolution 2231.
“The Su-35 fighters were technically acceptable to Iran,” she added.
Tehran has established strong ties with Moscow in various sectors, including the military, in the past year.
Kiev has accused Tehran of providing Moscow with Shahed-136 “kamikaze” planes that have been used in attacks on civilian targets since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year – a claim the Islamic Republic denies.
The United States has expressed concern about the growing military cooperation between Iran and Russia, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby warning in December that Russia appeared likely to sell its fighter jets to Iran.
Kirby emphasized that Iranian pilots were reportedly learning to fly Sukhoi warplanes in Russia, and that Tehran could receive the planes within the next year, which would “significantly boost Iran’s air force compared to its regional neighbors.”
Iran currently possesses Soviet-era Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets, as well as some Chinese aircraft, including the F-7.
Some American F-4 and F-5 fighter jets dating back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution are also part of its fleet.
The United States began reimposing sanctions on Iran in 2019, a year after it unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal under then-President Donald Trump.
Known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the 2015 agreement gave Iran international sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its suspected nuclear programme.
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