Iran Could Soon Be Flying Russia's Su-35 Flanker-E Fighter Jet

Su-35 Flanker-E
February 13, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: IranSu-35Su-35EFighterMilitaryRussiaRussian Air Force

Iran Could Soon Be Flying Russia's Su-35 Flanker-E Fighter Jet

The Su-35 won't be the only Russian aircraft operated by Iran - but it would be a massive upgrade. The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force also has approximately two dozen Sukhoi Su-24s and 19 MiG-29s in service.


Iran Could Get the Russian Su-35 - The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force operates a motley mix of aircraft – some dating back more than 40 years before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. However, there have been renewed concerns recently that the Islamic Republic could soon operate far more modern and capable warbirds.

In addition to largely failed efforts to build an indigenous fighter, late last year Tehran finalized a deal with Moscow for the acquisition of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter. It was a sign of closer ties between the two nations, while it could allow the Iran Air Force to greatly expand in size in the coming years.


Plans have been finalized for Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters, and Yak-130 jet trainers to join the combat units of Iran's Army," Iran's deputy Defence Minister Mehdi Farahi said in a statement in late November, as reported by Reuters.

Two dozen of the Su-35s are reported to be on order, but it is unclear when those will be delivered.

Iran has also claimed to have started production of the locally-designed Kowsar fighter for use in its air force, but military experts believe the jet is a carbon copy of the F-5, first produced in the United States in the 1960s.

Su-35: Vast Improvement for the Islamic Republic

The Su-35 won't be the only Russian aircraft operated by Tehran. The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force also has approximately two dozen Sukhoi Su-24s and around 19 MiG-29s in service.

The sale of the Su-35 to Iran could spur other Middle Eastern countries to consider upgrading their air forces as well – and perhaps that is part of Moscow's strategy to find customers for its bargain basement Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate, which was presented earlier this month at the World Defense Show 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Russia may have believed that arming Iran could result in sales of its other aircraft to Tehran's regional rivals.

However, that tactic may have failed – as there are reports Saudi Arabia may have expressed interest in the Boeing F-15EX Eagle II instead.

The Flanker-E in the Crosshairs

The Sukhoi Su-35 (NATO reporting name "Flanker-E") has been touted by Moscow as being one of the most advanced 4++ generation aircraft systems, combining many fifth-generation elements. The multirole supermaneuverable one-seat fighter is designed to engage air, ground threats and to counteract naval surface forces of an enemy.


The Su-35 is just a heavily upgraded derivative of the Su-27 aircraft (NATO reporting name "Flanker") and was originally intended for export. However, it has been in service with the Russian Air Force since 2014 and made its first combat deployment in Syria in 2015 – where it was employed to provide cover for other Russian aircraft on bombing missions.


Designated the "Flanker-E" by NATO, this “4++ generation" fighter has proven itself to be a very capable foe to current U.S. aircraft, including the F-15 Eagle, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and even the F-35 Lightning II. The aircraft was initially developed as an export model of the Su-27.

Several nations have been listed as potential operators including Algeria, Egypt, India, and the United Arab Emirates. However, sales of the Su-35 to those countries haven't materialized.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

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