By: Kian Mokhtari

A less than desirable state of affairs rules the Iranian airspace. This time the bad taste left in the Iranian palette is not to do with civil aviation. It is not a Russian Tupolev, Illushin or Yak coming down with loss of passengers' lives.

It is the sight of the same old military aircraft patched up and nursed into taking to the skies for a few more hours year after year. Our best wishes to our fighter pilots and ground crew!

Any country's air force forms the backbone of its defenses. It is perceived as a measure of a nation's prowess to be able to offer its pilots the very best combat aircraft available on the market. Of course the first world has the luxury of the know-how to manufacture its own.

In Iran, despite a 95-year obsession with military aviation the industry has stayed put in its infancy. Ever since the bi-planes of Shahbaz Aviation Company took to the skies in the 1930s, successive governments have failed to address the issue that Iran requires its very own aeronautic designers, aircraft engineers and technicians to go ahead and explore conceptual, innovative and futuristic designs. No proper financing, investment or structures have been comprehensively explored or devised and any such processes have been terrifyingly slow. And so Iran has reached a point where -under sanctions by the world powers- it is struggling even to obtain second rate foreign fighter aircraft that at least possess an inkling of modern technological achievements in aerospace design and avionics. This is while the indigenous efforts remain limited to adaptations of foreign designs and available technologies that are generally speaking, at least two decades old.

The result is the sad specter of third generation fighters left over from the Imperial Iranian Air Force glued together through lack of spares and some 3.5 generation fighters and bombers purchased from Russia .

Iran's Saeqeh fighter is a twin tailed F-5 with reportedly up rated versions of the J-85 engine and slightly better radar; that is about all. The air-to-air weapon delivery systems remain mired in difficulties and reliant on "foreign assistance."

Foreign assistance is an insult to Iran while it possesses the kind of creative minds that under another country's supervision and management have helped NASA land unmanned spacecraft on Mars.

The complete balls up made out of managing brilliant, creative and young Iranian minds is apparent in the weapons that are fired in Iran's military maneuvers every year. There is no investment in Iranian ingenuity, instead a regime of sit-down-and draw-that-old-design to new specs has blighted and stunted the country's growth in the aerospace sector.

One good design for an advanced fighter and trainer called Shafaq remains years from fruition and by the time it is made operational it is likely to be a full decade behind the advances made in the meantime.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force requires at least 200 strategic fighters like Sukhoi SU-30 to replace its grand daddy F-14 Tomcats. It also requires at least 150 fighters in the US F-16 class; something like the Chinese F-10.

Effective air defense of a country the size of Iran requires at least three early warning aircraft -with a forth in reserve. Maritime recognizance duties require at least six specialized aircraft.

The above will only tie Iran over until -hopefully- its own indigenous and "innovative" designed warplanes take to the skies.

Surely we can do better than this; we cannot continue with such blatant exposure and weaknesses within our defensive structures.


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