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Iran nearing deal for China's J-10 fighters

Tuesday, August 11, 2015 7:11
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The J-10A fighter and its weapons systems on display at the Zhuhai Airshow in Guangdong, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo/Xinhua)

Iran is closing in on a deal to acquire a fleet of J-10 fighter jets — most likely the J-10A — from China to upgrade its air force, reports the Beijing-based Sina Military Network.

While UN arms sanctions against Iran are yet to be lifted following a historic deal to curb the country's nuclear program last month, Beijing is already said to be nearing an agreement to sell and/or lease J-10 multirole fighters to Tehran.

Citing Russian military websites, Sina Military notes that the J-10A model of the jet, nicknamed “Red Eagle” by the People's Liberation Army, will likely be Tehran's top candidate for the acquisition.

The country's air force basically stopped upgrading since the Islamic revolution between 1978 and 1979, the report said, adding that the F-14 fighters acquired from the US prior to the revolution remain the air force's primary option. Iran will no doubt look to update its fleet once the UN sanctions are lifted, but any acquisition will be heavily influenced by politics and balancing interests.

Accordingly, Iran is unlikely to acquire American or European military aircraft as relations have not yet improved to that stage, Sina Military said, concluding that Tehran's options are therefore limited to Russia's Su-27 or MiG-29 and China's J-10 and JF-17.
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The MiG-29 has superior maneuverability but is evidently at a disadvantage in combat as there are records of several MiG-29s shot down but no record of any other fighter being shot down by a MiG-29. Russia's record of aircraft technical maintenance and repair obligations of the aircraft is also said to be poor, while Iran is not yet able to afford the improved MiG-25 model.

The Su-27 supermaneuverable fighter would also be a flawed selection for Iran's purposes because of its longer flight range, which could concern both the US and Israel and in turn lead to pressure on Russia, the report said. This is also a reason why China is unlikely to sell Iran its own version of the Su-27, the J-11B.

On the other hand, the JF-17 Thunder, co-developed by China and Pakistan and known in China as the FC-1 Xiaolong, is currently in use by the Pakistan Air Force. Complex relations between Iran and Pakistan, most recently influenced by a 2013 border incident that killed 13 people, could mean that the JF-17 has also been ruled out by Tehran.

The J-10 has a shorter range than the Su-27 but it is technically sufficient for combat and has stronger upgrade potential, the report said. To protect Chinese technology, Beijing will not sell Tehran the latest models of the J-10, meaning that the older J-10A would be the most suitable choice, the report added.

The J-10's functionality is said to be similar to that of the US F-16, but the plane can complete complex maneuvers at 900 kilometers per hour at low altitudes of 50 meters. With a range of 2,940 km, the jet will theoretically allow the Iranian air force to control the skies over the Persian Gulf.

According to the Russian news website Vzglyad, Beijing and Tehran are currently in negotiations to finalize a deal for the J-10 that will involve access rights to Iran's Azadegan oilfield. Chinese media speculate that deal may involve the supply of 24 J-10 jets by 2020 in return for 20 years of access rights, which experts estimate would be equivalent in value to about US$1 billion.

Credit to China Times


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