Iran’s aging air force faces spate of fighter crashes

Armed largely with aircraft purchased before 1979, Tehran has seen at least four accidents this year

An Iranian air force F-4 takes off (CC BY-SA Shahram Sharifi/Wikimedia Commons)
An Iranian air force F-4 takes off (CC BY-SA Shahram Sharifi/Wikimedia Commons)

Iran’s air force is seeing an increasing number of crashes and equipment failures as the Islamic republic struggles to stay relevant with aging, outdated technology.

On Tuesday Iranian state TV said an air force Sukhoi-24 crashed while on patrol near the southern city of Shiraz. The two pilots ejected and survived.

But it was hardly an extraordinary occurrence in the nation, where at least three other fighter crashes have already occurred this year alone.

In May a Mig-29 crashed during a training session, killing a pilot. In April an F-7 fighter reportedly went down in a central province during training, according to Reuters. In January a US-made F-4 Phantom fighter jet crashed during training exercises near the border with Pakistan, killing both pilots. Previous years have also seen deadly accidents.

The aviation disasters are not limited to the air force: Hundreds of passengers have been killed in multiple civilian aircraft crashes over the past decade.

Experts pin the blame on the many sanctions and limitations placed upon Tehran in the years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which have prevented it from acquiring new offensive aircraft or receiving proper servicing for its exiting fleet.

The air force still relies largely on domestically modified versions of long-outdated warplanes, including Soviet MiGs and American F-4 Phantoms and F-14 Tomcats purchased before the revolution.

Iran has used the obsolete Phantoms in its strikes against Islamic State in Iraq.

In February Tehran signed a contract with Moscow to purchase a newer version of the Russian-made fighter jet, the Sukhoi-30. The US has warned the sale would violate a UN arms embargo on Tehran, but Russia has rejected this assertion.


Meanwhile in June Iran said it had reached an agreement with American aerospace giant Boeing to purchase 100 aircraft for its civilian fleet, which is also in desperate need of renewal. That deal must still be approved by the US government.

Most Popular
read more: