The Israeli intelligence is following Iran’s efforts to upgrade old US made fighter aircraft to maintain some kind of aerial power.
Israeli sources say that this power may be used mainly to attack ships in the Gulf with Iranian made weapon systems.
In recent weeks, the Iranians have unveiled an upgrade of their old US made F-4 .
The upgrade includes the installation of a new radar, the Iranians claim was developed locally.
The Iranians have also manufactured some spare parts for the old fighter aircraft, since these are not available on the market, not even by the use of straw companies that the Iranians operate for these purposes.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Iran purchased 225 F-4s . After the Islamic revolution , the US imposed an embargo on Iran, including a full halt to all shipment of spare parts.
The situation of the Iranian F-4 fleet has been deteriorating and became dangerous. Many aircraft crashed due to malfunctions, after being disabled due to a lack of spare parts. Reports point to a plan based on cannibalizing some F-4’s , to use them as spare parts.
Later on, the Iranians began to manufacture the aircraft parts themselves, or they succeeded in getting their hands on the parts that circulated through the black market.
Recent reports claim that the Iranian Air Force has some 45 F-4’s in operational status “Full or partial”.
Israeli sources say that the Iranians are investing in the upgrade of the old F-4’s to be able to target ships in the waters of the Persian Gulf, particularly the narrow but strategically positioned Straits of Hormuz.
In parallel to upgrading the old aircraft, the Iranian defence industry has developed some types of air launched anti-ship missile systems. The Nasr anti-ship cruise missile, is a direct derivative of the Chinese C-704.
With a range of 21 miles, the missile has been modified to be deployed from Iranian F-4 fighter aircraft .
The Iranians have also deployed a second anti-ship missile based on an advanced Chinese design. The Qader medium range cruise missile, derived from the Chinese C-802 supersonic missile is capable of striking targets up to125 miles.
In spite of the sanctions, Iran is equipping its army with relatively advanced weapon systems. Some of these were used in the recent attack on the Saudi oil installations.
These included seven cruise misses , designated Qudas 1 , that were powered by jet engines built in Iran based on a Czech engine , and 8 loitering weapon systems that were developed in Iran based on technology acquired in other countries.
The experts add that the weapon systems were launched either from South –east Iran or by Iranian allies in Iraq.
The examination of the cruise missiles debris, enabled the experts to identify the missile as the “Sumar” Or “Hoveyze “, two versions of the Russian made missiles.
In 2001 Iran purchased from the Ukraine at least 12 KH-55 Russian made cruise missiles.
According to updated intelligence , the Iranians are devoting big sums of money to upgrade the existing arsenal of cruise missiles and develop new ones , understanding that while protection against ballistic missiles has reached a high level of maturity , the protection against cruise missiles is still lacking capabilities.
By Arie Egozi
With more than 25 years of experience in defence publishing, Global Business Press and its industry leading titles Asian Defence Technology, Asian Airlines & Aerospace and Daily News are the leading defence publications in the region, present at more international shows and exhibitions than any other competing publication in the region.