Iran says Plan to Buy Su-30SM Fighter Jets from Russia not a Done Deal

30 November 2016

Iran has categorically refused to confirm plans to buy an unspecified number of Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30SM multirole fighters after Russia apparently balked at some of Tehran's demands as part of this multi-billion dollar deal.

Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan only said the acquisition of the Su-30SM version of this two-seat, supermaneuverble fighter jet was on his ministry's agenda, but made no mention of any ironclad agreement sealing the deal for these jets.

He denied earlier reports in Iranian and world media the deal was a sure thing. Other defense ministry officials also said reports confirming the deal are incorrect.

Dehghan also said Iran will hold talks with any source capable of meeting its military needs, except the U.S. and Israel.

He earlier said Iran needs to "seriously focus on the air force and fighters."

Acquiring the Su-30SM would have made this aircraft the most modern in the badly equipped Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) that still counts a four-decade old version of the U.S. made McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet as one of its two main ground attack aircraft.

In the air superiority role, the Su-30SM would have been invaluable in assisting IRIAF's two air superiority fighters: the iconic Grumman F-14 Tomcat variable-wing interceptor (first flown by the U.S. in 1970 and retired in 1996) and the Mikoyan MiG-29.

IRIAF operates 24 F-14s and 20 MiG-29s. It also has 24 Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft in its inventory.

Iranian media quoted Dehghan as only saying "the purchase of this fighter is on the agenda of the defense ministry" and that "reinforcing and providing the needs of the air force are among the priorities of the defense ministry," without referring to the Russian jets in particular.

Earlier this year, however, Dehghan said Iran and Russia had begun talks on Iran's purchase of the Su-30s. Iran's about face seems to confirm potentially damaging disagreements that might scuttle the deal in the end.

Iranian media said Iran wants any deal with Russia to include a Russian transfer of technology and Russia's jointly investing in the project to produce the Su-30 in Iran.

Russia was previously reported to have agreed to both terms but Iran's refusal to categorically confirm the Su-30 purchase indicates problems with these demands.