Iranian F-14s escort Russian Bomber


#1

Iranian F-14 Tomcats escorting a Russian Tu-95 bomber during air strike in Syria

Something really interesting details have been exposed by the material released by Russia’s MoD lately.

Indeed, as you can see in the video below, IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-14 Tomcat interceptors escorted Russian Air Force Tu-95 Bear bombers flying in Iranian airspace during their 9h 30mins missions (from Engels airbase and back, along the Iraq-Iran-Caspian Sea 6,500 km-long corridor) against terrorist targets in Syria.

Iran is the sole operator of the F-14 and the AIM-54 Phoenix missile-- to which we never built a successor. The Phoenix is longer range than any other air-to-air munition in our inventory.

During the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranians used the F-14s as glorified AWACS, due to the powerful on-board AWG-9 radar they had on board to direct the long-range Phoenix with.

These are also the planes (about a dozen in operation) that they use to guard their Nuclear power plants.

Highly recommend this book. Describes how the Iranians used American tech, and American technology, to completely decimate the French-supported Iraqis whom started the war with a clear advantage in both numbers and supply.


#2

I’m wondering how in the world they’re keeping any F-14s flying; they haven’t had U.S. tech support since 1979. I question if the Phoenix is still operational.

As to the war vs. Iraq, I don’t think they trounced them; there was a whole lot of nothing going on in that war in the air.


#3

> … the Iranians used the F-14s as glorified AWACS, due to the powerful on-board AWG-9 radar they had on board to direct the long-range Phoenix with.

I’ll certainly defer to FC if he knows better, but an F-14A with its AWG-9 radar would be much less capable than an AWACS, not better as “glorified” suggests. I realize the AWG-9 could be used for more than targeting an AIM-54, and the Iranians probably did, but I don’t think it has a 360-degree like the AN/APY-1 of that era. The range of the AWG-9 was on the order of 100 miles, while the range of the AN/APY-1 was on the order of 250 miles (what the military would say publicly, in both cases).

As for how many are operational, it sounds like the Iranians have cannibalized, reverse-engineered, and used smuggled parts to keep about a dozen Persian Cats somewhat operational. The pilots probably don’t have the flight hours necessary to be effective users of their aircraft.

While the USN doesn’t fly the F-14-only AIM-54, the USN and the USAF use the AIM-120 instead. The AIM-120A had a range of 30-40 miles; the AIM-120D has a range of 97 miles or more, The AIM-120 is about one third the weight of an AIM-54. Both are fired and initially directed by the firing aircraft, and then switch to internal radar for terminal guidance.


#4

We gave them spare parts both for the hostages, and during the Iran-Contra affair.

Since then, they managed to smuggle spares out of our base in the Philippines (through a complicated black market scheme that went through companies in Malaysia and Britain) and through another in New York.

> I question if the Phoenix is still operational.

They’ve since made their own copy (they’ve also made more kills with this missile than we have). When we gave them these planes, the only thing they could fire was the cannons, and these missiles. They’ve had to modify them just to drop bombs.

> As to the war vs. Iraq, I don’t think they trounced them;

They at one point engaged in a risky operation where they cleared the skies of everything but their F-14s (which again, couldn’t drop bombs, so they were giving no air support to their ground forces when they did this). From what I read, the gambit worked, and it resulted in it being standard Iraqi policy for the rest of the war to refuse to engage an F-14.


#5

Poor man’s AWACS would be more like it. The AWG-9 was a capable radar as fighters go though, so they used what they had.

I have to wonder about Iran’s ability to reverse engineer anything, although I understand they did receive some help from Israel during the Iran-Iraq war.

As to the AIM-120, I have to look askance at that 97-mile range. The 62 miles that they claimed for late-model AIM-7 Sparrows wasn’t realistic in most scenarios. One thing that British military aviation author Bill Gunston noted was that the west tended to low-ball the estimated ranges of Soviet air-to-air missiles, and high-ball western ones (especially U.S. ones).

  1. I won’t dismiss this (since it is possible), but I have to look a little askance; I never heard a thing about it, and I was paying pretty close attention to the network news in the '80s.
  2. Again, never heard of this; and parts for TF30 engines and the AWG-9 Phoenix system have been out of production for well over a decade (the last USN Tomcat flight was (I think) in 2003).
  3. Like I said to Pete about the F-14’s technology in general, I have to wonder about Iran’s ability to make an AIM-54 or equivilent. As to scoring more kills with Phoenix than us, they’d only need one. However:
  4. I kept looking for news about the Iran-Iraq war during the '80s (not just on the network news, but Aviation Week and Space Technology and other publications), and I never heard about air-to-air kill one. I won’t dismiss that it could have happened, but you’d think that Iran would want the world to know about their prowess.

#6

They would keep the F-14s at a distance, while controlling F-5s to make the interdiction against Iraqi MiGs.

They did have an E-3 sentry, but the Iraqis killed it due to lack of air escort, as…

> I won’t dismiss that it could have happened, but you’d think that Iran would want the world to know about their prowess.

… They had their F-14s on lock down, and their pilots in jail because they were all considered “the Shah’s pilots”, and possible counter-revolutionaries. But as Iraq continued to gain ground, the Ayatollahs relented, and let more and more of them out of prison so they could fight.

“Celebrating” them would always be a mixed bag for the regime.

> 4. I kept looking for news about the Iran-Iraq war during the '80s (not just on the network news, but Aviation Week and Space Technology and other publications), and I never heard about air-to-air kill one.

Here’s one of their more famous aces:

And here’s the one responsible for planning the operation I told you about ( he later died during the war; shot down over the gulf then drowned. This was hidden for years . Even most Iranians don’t know about him or his exploits.)