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Su-35: Will Russia Sent to Iran Its Best Fighter Jet?

Artist rendering of a Russian Su-35 fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

In early February, Iran revealed imagery of its new Air Force base dubbed “Eagle 44.” Based on clues from the released footage, analysts believe the new base will house an incoming shipment of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets.

The Iranian government detailed that the new site would be used as a launching pad to respond to any potential future strikes by Israel or other adversaries.

According to a New York Times report, silhouettes of fighters being stored at Eagle 44 were displayed in the propaganda video circulated by regime officials. While the majority of silhouettes depicted known Iranian-fighters, one appeared to be Russia’s advanced jet.

Since Tehran has provided Moscow with killer drones to use in Ukraine, a shipment of Su-35s in exchange is probable.

The two rogue states have been working closer together in light of the sanctions imposed on them but the majority of the international community. 

The Story of Sukhoi’s Su-35 Fighter

Designated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as “Flanker-E,” the Su-35 is the name given to two improved variants of its Su-27 predecessor.

The single-seat, supermaneuverable, twin-engine aircraft took its first flight in 1988 under the name Su-27. 

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the platform was re-designated as Su-35 to attract export clients.

The Kremlin wanted to produce an indigenous near-peer to the American-made F-15 Eagle fighter jet during the Cold War, and the Su-35 was the solution.

The airframe has undergone multiple upgrades over the years and possesses fairly advanced capabilities today. 

What makes the Flanker-E a fourth “plus” generation platform?

In fact, the Flanker-E could accurately be compared to the F-15 electronics and weapons-wise.

However, Moscow likes to boast that the Su-35 is “fourth generation plus.” Since the jet is supermaneuverable, it can perform controlled maneuvers that would not be possible through regular aerodynamic mechanisms.

The Flanker-E can reach speeds of roughly 1,500 miles per hour (Mach 2.25), which is equivalent to the U.S. F-22 Raptor and actually faster than the U.S. F-35 Lightning II. With a flight range of over 2,000 miles and a service ceiling of almost 60,000 feet, the Su-35 can fly high and for long. 

As summed up by the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the Flanker-E “combines the qualities of a modern fighter (super-maneuverability, superior active and passive acquisition aids, high supersonic speed and long range, capability of managing battle group actions, etc.) and a good tactical airplane (wide range of weapons that can be carried, modern multi-channel electronic warfare system, reduced radar signature and high combat survivability).”

The advanced fighter is armed with a Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 30mm cannon with 150 rounds of ammunition and can additionally carry up to 17,000 pounds of air-to-ground munitions. While Russian Forces may not currently possess a high amount of precision-guided munitions, the opportunity for a wide-scale use of these weapons remains. 

Iran wants Su-35s to revive its bleak Air Force capabilities 

An influx of advanced Su-35 fighters would greatly improve Iran’s Air Force abilities.

The regime remains heavily reliant on largely outdated and stolen tech, including the F-14 Tomcat and F-4 Phantom fighter jets.

Incorporating a fourth “plus” generation platform would undoubtedly be a plus for Tehran.

It has long been suspected by industry experts that the Kremlin would at some point have to pay the price for the shipments of lethal combat drones the Iranian regime delivered for its invasion of Ukraine.

Combined with the latest clues provided by the recently released footage of Eagle 44, Russia’s Su-35 is likely the Kremlin’s reimbursement. 

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Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.