restored three of its three-decade old F-14A jets to operational status. More
F-14As are to be restored this year and next. There is, however, the matter of
credibility and capability. For decades, Iran has continually boasted of new,
Iranian designed and manufactured weapons, only to have the rather more somber
truth leak out later. Iran's weapons design capabilities are primitive, but the
government has some excellent publicists, who always manage to grab some
headlines initially, before anyone can question the basic facts behind these
amazing new weapons.
For example, Iran says it
began its F-14 restoration project in 2002. In that same year, Iran announced
that 25, of the 79 F-14As it bought in the 1970s, were still operational. It's
long been known that Iran began cannibalizing some of its F-14s, back in the
1980s, to keep others flying. During the 1980s, the F-14s were heavily used in
the war with Iraq. In 1985, 25 Iranian F-14s flew over Tehran as part of a
celebration. In the last year of the war, 1988, at an F-14 shot down an Iraqi
jet, one of over 80 knocked down by their F-14s since 1980. That much is known,
because there were witnesses and other evidence.
Less well known is that Iran
established a smuggling operation to obtain F-14 parts, and manufactured some
itself. Russia also helped with some custom made parts and refurbishment. But
going into the 1990s, fewer and fewer Iranian F-14s were seen in the air.
Whenever an F-14 took off it was big news, and difficult to hide. Word got
around, and with hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in exile, the word
was passed on. Thus the 2002 claim that 25 Iranian F-14s were operational, were
not taken seriously. The new claims, that three are flyable, appear to be true.
Some F-14s have been seen in the air, but don't expect another major, or even
minor, flyover in Tehran. Iran says it is making new weapons for the F-14,
without mentioning that the supply of U.S. made missiles ran out over a decade
ago. The F-14 also needs new electronics, as part for those items are much
harder to get than items needed to get the aircraft into the air. Iran can, at
great effort and expense, get a dozen or so F-14s into the air. But once
flying, these ancient and jury-rigged aircraft, are more target than threat.