Notes on ex-Iraqi Su-22 "Fitter" fighter-bomber aircraft transferred from Iran to Syria
Details sourced from Babak Taghvaee with commentary by Mark Pyruz
Above: Iraqi Air Force (IrAF) Sukhoi Su-22M-4 observed at Saddam International (BGW / ORBI) in April 1989
[photo: T. Laurent]
Above image reflective of where it all began, one of perhaps as many as forty IrAF Sukhoi Su-22 fighter-bomber aircraft that during the 1991 Gulf War was transferred by surprise from Iraq to Iran, in order to escape U.S.-led coalition air bombardment against Iraqi airfields.
A number of explanations have been offered for this surprise transfer, with this writer inclined to believe Saddam at the most was seeking a temporary safekeeping for such aircraft, or at the least serving to put a kink in U.S. policy of containment effected towards Iraq and Iran.
Above: Sukhoi Su-22M-4 "Fitter" in IRIAF markings, appearing 17SEP1 at IDIO exhibition in Tehran
[photo, magnified: Majid Khodaei]
Fast forward past decades of Iranian Su-22 storage and false-started restoration efforts [see HERE, and HERE], all IRIAF Sukhoi Su-22 aircraft are ordered transferred to IRGC-ASF by Iran's military high command, whereupon ten airframes had undergone some level of restoration. A further three airframes being set for transfer, two of which are to be transferred to the IRGC Pars Aviation Service Company (see photo below) and one to the Artesh Holy Defense Museum at Beheshte Zahra. [see HERE]
Above image of IRIAF Sukhoi Su-22M-4 "Fitter" aircraft, serial 3-6905 scheduled for transfer this week or last to IRGC-ASF, from where it had been stored within an 11th TFS shelter at Tehran/Mehrabad TFB-1.
Prior to delivery to IRGC-ASF, Su-22 aircraft have their in-flight refueling (IFR) probe and Lyulka AL-21 axial flow turbojet engines removed and retained by Iran Aircraft Industries (IACI). Retained IFR probes to to be used for "Project Dowran" upgrading of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II aircraft, and the upgrading of Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" aircraft. Lyulka AL-21F-3 powerplants from Su-22M-4 aircraft potentially suitable for IRIAF Sukhoi Su-24MK "Fencer-D" aircraft, as units or sourced for replacement parts.
Three of the above "Fitter" aircraft are painted in yellow undercoats with one retaining its camouflage paint scheme. Su-20 (IrAF serial 1182) and Su-24UM2K airframes being utilized for parts reclamation-- such as landing gear and movable outer wing segments-- for IRIAF re-serial 3-6906.
Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) Sukhoi Su-22M-4 "Fitter" fighter-bomber
[video still via Luftwaffe A.S]
Meanwhile, Iran's ally the Syrian Arab Republic has been embroiled for years in conflict against Western-backed rebels, as well as ISIL and Al-Qeada affiliated forces. The SyAAF possesses many years experience in operating and maintaining Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter aircraft. At the onset of hostilities, SyAAF operated Su-22 aircraft from the following airfields: Dumayr, Shayrat (677 and 685 Squadrons) and Tiyas (827 Squadron).
An agreement was recently reached between the militaries of Iran and Syria whereby ten Iranian Su-22 "Fitter" airframes are sent to Syria. Fitters delivered to Syria with only fuselage restoration complete, being transported by Ilyushin Il-76 “Candid” aircraft. Initial five transfers occurred between April and September 2013, with a further five delivered more recently. Efforts at completing overhaul toward FMC status have been undertaken by SyAAF.
Transfer of these ten fighter-bomber aircraft fall within the spirit of the Iran-Syria mutual defense pact signed in 2006, details of which have not been made public. Perhaps more pragmatically, the Iranians are expecting transferred aircraft to be returned at some future date, in fully operational condition.