By Marco Dijkshoorn
In 1923 Persian Reza Khan was elected prime minister and eleven years later, in 1934 Persia was renamed to Iran. During WWII Khan was forced into exile to South Africa by the British and Soviets and his son, Ariamehr Mohamed Reza Paklavi, succeeded him, taking on strong bonds with the West. He ruled until the Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh became the democratically elected prime minister in May 1951. Allegedly with CIA interference, his government was overthrown after 27 months of service, in August 1953 and Reza was again installed in power.
During its regime, Reza adopted the title of Shah and the economic situation in the country deteriorated which led to massive demonstrations and unrests in 1978. These unrests were supported by several political prongs within Iran; the most powerful of these became the Shi'a clergy, which used the situation to install itself in power, and declare the "Islamic Republic of Iran" (IRI). The Shah's rule collapsed and he fled the country on 16 January 1979. In turn, Ayatollah Khomeini, the acknowledged leader of the Shah's opponents, returned from exile to rule the country from than on. The Ayatollah proclaimed Islamic fundamentalism (Shi'a Islam) and conservative clerical forces subsequently crushed westernizing elements.
The 1980 move of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in which he tried to claim the Khuzestan province lead to a bloody eight year war (the First Gulf War) between Iran and Iraq. It eventually led to an UN-mandated indecisive ceasefire in 1988 and it cost the lives of hundreds of thousands.
When the Ayatollah passed away on 4 June 1989, president Rafsanjani was elected. But during his rule the Emam (Supreme Leader) role was taken over by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei In 1997 a moderate Iranian president, Hojjat-ol-Eslam Seyed Mohammed Khatami was elected and many hoped that relations with the rest of the world would improve. Between Rezas second rule and the election of Khatami in 1997 the image of Iran in the West became that of a very fundamentalist, contra western country. While his presidency has certainly instigated a national dialogue about relaxing government restrictions, the increasing polarization between Khatamis liberal circle and Supreme Leader Khameneis hard-line fundamentalist supporters may have actually led to more incidents of censorship and discrimination.
Source (among others) Lonely Planet Air Combat Information Group Forum
Air armed forces designations
The armed forces that operate aircraft are:
- IIAF -Imperial Iranian Air Force (mid '20s-feb79)
- IIAA - Imperial Iranian Army Aviation, IIAA (-feb79)
- IIN - Imperial Iranian Navy (-feb79)
- IRIAF - Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (feb79 - current)
- IRIAA - Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation (feb79 - current)
- IRINA - Islamic Republic of Iranian Navy Aviation (feb79- current)
- IRGCAF - Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force (Pasdaran-e Inqilab)
- IRGCN - Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy
Information on the Iranian Armed Forces is not widely available and post-revolution the forces are known to have gone through several major reorganisations (especially in the mid-90s). The information presented here is a reflection of what is know and published in open sources and not all reorganisations are reflected in this overview. Updates, additions and corrections are therefore very welcome!
A brief history
An Air Arm in the Persian Forces was established in the mid-20s. Operating De Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moths, Hawker Furies, Audax's and Hinds. In August 1955 the air arm (then called Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF)) gained independence and fell under the Ministry of War (Aviation Department). Under the Shas rule the USA supplied a large number of combat aircraft including 79 F-14A Tomcats, 32 F-4D Phantoms, 177 F-4Es and 16 RF-4Es, 140 F-5Es and 28 dual seat F-5Fs. Iran Air Defense relied heavily on western hardware until an arms-embargo was established when militant Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979. Due to the seizure of spare parts delivery, the operational status of the western equipment deteriorated quickly (despite the US delivered equipment during the Iran gate scandal under the Ronald Reagan/George Bush Administration). The Iran-Iraq war resulted in a huge boost of the indigenous arms industry and through local production of arms and spare parts, the Iranian Armed Forces kept its assets airworthy. After the February 1979 revolution the only western deliveries were 35 Pilatus PC-7, 15 PC-6 Porters and 15 Brazilian-built EMB312 Tucano trainers. These deliveries took place between 1983 and 1990. The main non-western suppliers of aircraft and support have undoubtedly been China with their deliveries of F-7M (MiG-21) and and Russia with the MiG-29, An-74, Su-24MK (some ex Iraq AF) and Il-76TDs (some ex Iraq AF).
Mid 1991, during the 2nd Gulf War a lot of Iraq Air Force pilot fled to their neighboring country Iran, supplying the IRIAF with a large number of aircraft including Mirage F1BQ/EQ (which now forms at least one sauqdron at Mashhad), Su-24MK Fencer-Ds, MiG-29 Fulcrums, Su-20s, Su-22M Fitters, Su-25 Frogfoots, MiG-23s in several configurations and a number of Il-76s. At least the Mirages and the Su-24MKs gained operational status.
The air arm of the Iranian armed forces has drawn a lot of media attention lately by revealing some of the locally produced and upgraded hardware during the Khoramshahr Air Exhibition held in May and June 2002 and the Iran International Air Show held at Kish Island (OIBK) in October and November 2002. Iran is clearly trying to achieve a totally self-sufficient armaments capability and is doing quite well taking into account that the arms trade had come to a total stand-still since the 1979 revolution. Some of the projects currently undertaken by the local industries like the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (IAMI) in conjunction with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are:
The Simorgh is a Northrop F-5A to F-5B conversion by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (IAMI) at Shahin Shahr Isfahan
Shafagh, a two-seat Advanced training and Attack aircraft that is allegedly based on the Russian-Iranian "Project Integral". Plans are to produce three versions of the Shafagh. One two-seat trainer/light strike version and two one-seat fighter-bomber versions. They will be fitted with Russian ejection seats.
Parastu (Swallow), a reverse-engineered Beech F33 Bonanza
Azarakhsh (Lightning), a reverse engineered F-5E.
JT2-2 Tazarv, the third prototype of the jet-powered Dorna (Lark) which is a light trainer
Shahed 274, a locally designed light helicopter with a combination of components of several helicopter-types, mainly the Bell 206.
Shavabiz 75, a reverse-engineered Bell 214C
Project 2061, a reverse-engineered Bell 206
Project 2091, an upgrade program of the AH-1J
Iran-140, a license built Antonov An-140
Besides these projects the local aviation industry performs upgrades and overhaul programs on a high technical level on the complete fleet of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
It is confirmed that an unknown number of "new" Su-25s were delivered to the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps Air Force (IRGCAF) in 2003. Where these Frogfoots originate from is unclear. During an arms exhibition at Tehran-Mehrabad set up to commemorate the 8-year war with Iraq, a Su-25 was shown to the public. Also an F-14A and a JT2-2 Tazarv were displayed.
The IRIAF Airbase structure consists of a number of Tactical Air Bases which are numbered.
- 1st Tactical Air Base , Tehran Mehrabad (OIII)
- 2nd Tactical Air Base , Tabriz (OITT)
- 3rd Tactical Air Base , Nojeh/Hamadan (OIHH)
- 4th Tactical Air Base , Vahdati/Dezful (OIAD)
- 5th Tactical Air Base , Shahid Ardestani/Omidiyeh (OIAJ)
- 6th Tactical Air Base , Bushehr (OIBB)
- 7th Tactical Air Base , Shahid Dastghaib/Shiraz (OISS)
- 8th Tactical Air Base , Shahid Beheshti/Esfahan (OIFM)
- 9th Tactical Air Base , Bandar Abbas (OIKB)
- 10th Tactical Air Base , Kangan/Chah Bahar (OIZC)
- 12th Tactical Air Base , Shahid Asyaee/Masjed Suleyman (OIAI)
- 13th Tactical Air Base, Gayem al-Mohammad (OIxx)
- 14th Tactical Air Base, Hashemi Nejad/Mashhad (OIMM)
Unknown airbase assignments are:
- Tehran-Ghale-Morghi (OIIG)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani(aka Bakhtaran and Kermanshah) (OICC)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Tehran-Doshan/Tappeh (OIID)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Zahedan (OIZH)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Masjed Suleyman (OIAI) (aka Shahid Asyaee)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Aghajari (OIAG)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Kerman (OIKK)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Mahabad (OI??)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Ahwaz (OIAW)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Khorramshahr (OI??)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Khark Island (OIBQ)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Nou Shahr (OINN) (Noshahr)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Abamusa Island (OIBA)
- ??th Tactical Air Base, Badr (OIFP) (aka Sepah Air Base)
During the 1970s the Army air arm expanded greatly with the acquisition of over 300 Bell 214As and 200+ Bell AH-1J Cobras together with approximately 185 Italian build Agusta-Bell 206s, approximately 100 AB205s and 66 CH-47C Chinooks that were Agusta-Meridionali built. The fixed wing force consisted of Cessna O-2s, Cessna-185s, Cessna 310s, Dassault Falcon 20Es, Rockwell AC690 Aero Commanders and Fokker F27s from which probably only the Fokkers and the Falcons are currently operational. Post revolution the IRIAA was provided with a number (9?) of Harbin Y-12s.
The principal attack and ASW role of the IRINA is executed by its 20 or so SH-3D Sea Kings, supported by a number of AB212ASWs. It also has some heavy-lift RH-53Ds and for liaison purposes it has Agusta built AB205As and AB206As. The Navy Patrol Squadron is equipped with Dassault Falcon 20Es and Fokker F27-400M.