November 13, 2012: It was recently revealed, by the United States, that on November 1st, two Iranian Su-25 warplanes fired on an American Predator UAV in the Persian Gulf but missed. How is this possible? The Su-25 is a twin-engine jet that has a top speed four times that of the single engine propeller driven Predator.
This incident makes more sense if you realize that Iran has been harassing its neighbors with gunboats and aircraft like the Su-25 for years. Then there is the fact that the Su-25 was designed to attack ground targets, not other aircraft. The Su-25 is a 17 ton aircraft that carries a 30mm twin-barrel rotary cannon (with 250 rounds) and up to five tons of bombs and missiles (including air-to-air missiles). The twin-engine, one seat aircraft has a combat radius of 380 kilometers and a top speed of 900 kilometers an hour. It's the Russian equivalent of the U.S. A-10.
The Su-25 design is more similar to the 19 ton American A-9, a competing design with the 23 ton A-10. The Su-25 and A-9 both are about 14 percent faster than the A-10. But the A-10 is a more stable aircraft and much more resistant to battle damage. Absent lots of ground fire, both the A-10 and Su-25 are very effective against ground targets. The A-10 also has an edge with its unique 30mm autocannon, in addition to seven tons of bombs. The A-9 could carry eight tons, in addition to the same 30mm autocannon.
It is possible for aircraft of this type to shoot down other aircraft. During the 1991 Gulf War A-10s shot down two Iraqi helicopters. It’s more likely that the Iranian Su-25 pilots failed to shoot down that Predator because they were under orders to cause an incident but not shoot down the UAV. That might have led to retaliation, which the Iranians are not equipped to handle.
Iran has ten Su-25s, seven of them Iraqi aircraft seized when they fled to Iran in 1991. The other three were bought from Russia in the 1990s, along with spare parts and other equipment that allowed the seven Iraqi Su-25s to be made operational. All the Su-25s are controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, which is a separate military organization whose main goal is to protect the Islamic clerics who run Iran from the Iranian people or anyone else intent on overthrowing the religious dictatorship that has run the country since the 1980s. When not doing that the Revolutionary Guard is used to stir up trouble with the neighbors.