Monday, August 3, 2009

What the IIAF were prepared for

Since 1972 the Shah of Iran had taken interest in buying some new American built hi-tech interceptor aircraft, Iran had taken interest in the General Dynamics F-111 since 1968 but the US turned down this request instead sending some 32 F-4 Phantom II's to Iran in the early 1970's.

In light of air to air combat experience from Vietnam the Grumman Cooperation designed the F-14 Tomcat, a fast and powerful interceptor that could face down nimble Russian MiGs (earning it the nickname MiG killer), it also had the large powerful AWG-9 radar that could scan the battlefield for miles and could carry six AIM-54 missiles, these large long range missiles could be fired and reach a speed of Mach 4 before hitting their target from up to 100 miles away.

This incorporated with the AWG-9 radar meant that the F-14 could track 24 different targets and fire 6 missiles at them, all of this under a single airframe, truly the worlds first super fighter.

But after the delivery of the first 20 or so in 1976 the Shah ordered another batch bringing the total number of orders up to 80, these made up the bulk of the IIAF air defense that would cover all of Iran, most of the F-14's to be situated at the massive Khatami Air Base built in the desert outside of Isfahan near the center of the country.

The development of such huge aerial defence logistics for Iran in a short time was to counter Soviet MiGs which were overflying Iran in the mid 1970's, it was very hard for their F-4's to intercept the fast MiG-25 Foxbats (still one of the fastest fighter jets in the world) and such interceptions were becoming dangerous when an F-4 did manage to hit a MiG-25 which crashed after flying over the northern border into the USSR.

The Soviets responded by shooting down one of the IIAF EF-4's, not long later the first F-14's begun to arrive.

The IIAF was therefore improving Iran's air defense to be one of the best in the world, the AIM-54 armed F-14 Tomcat proved a real threat to the Soviets compared to the Sparrow armed F-4, over the desert the F-14's trained by shooting down drones from very long distances with their new AIM-54 missiles testing the truly deadly system to its limits.

The Shah seemed to think seriously that the Soviets were going to invade, if coordinated properly the IIAF would be a match for even the Soviet Air Force and would be a formidable obstacle for a mass Soviet attempt to gain air superiority over Iran, the Shah had also ordered the delivery of some 160 F-16 Fighting Falcons about a year before the revolution but that never happened and they were given to Israel (and a handful to Pakistan) instead in 1980.

But that would have been one formidable force if held together properly, the F-16's just add it to a standard that would ensure the Russians had no air superiority and would therefore be unable to launch a ground invasion of northern Iran.

However following the 1979 Iranian revolution the IIAF fell apart when the Americans left along with several pro Shah pilots, those who remained (Shah's pilots) where jailed or tortured and most of the planes were not able to get proper maintenance, the grand IIAF had fallen and was replaced by the IRIAF which still has some former IIAF aircraft in it today. But by 1988 they had been exhausted for resources (helped mainly by the arms and economic embargo's enforced by the US and Europe) by fighting the war with Saddam and most of the AIM-54 missiles had gone beyond their shelf life and only 25 of the original 79 Tomcats remained flyable.

But the IRIAF are pushing some more of the war worthy broken down F-14's into repairs (making new parts fixing the air frames back up etc.) and working on a replacement for the deadly AIM-54 Phoenix system.

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