Attrition: Persian Immortals


November 29, 2007: Iran lost another of its F-4 fighters to a training accident on November 26th. Both crewmen died. Iran still has about 30-40 F-4s [PHOTO] in service (out of 202 available when the U.S. cut off support in 1979). There are a smaller (10-20) number of F-14s (out of 77). There may be 20-30 F-5s still operational (out of 166). Iran has gone to great lengths to obtain spare parts to keep its 1970s vintage U.S. warplanes flying. Despite all the oil revenue, there has not been sufficient cash to restock the air force with modern aircraft from Russia and China. Some warplanes have been obtained from those sources, but when flown against the U.S. aircraft, it was obvious why American fighters have dominated the skies for the last sixty years.

Keeping the old birds operational meant that hours in the air had to be restricted. Thus the pilots do not get the same level of training as their Western counterparts. So why bother keeping all those old clunkers flyable? Mainly because it intimidates the Arabs across the Gulf. That is something the Iranians have been doing for thousands of years, and it's a hard habit to give up.


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