Thursday, August 23, 2007

A deal to watch out for

Iran to buy Sukhoi 30s, fuel tankers, from Russia?

Tehran and the Russian arms export giant Rosoboronexport will shortly sign a mammoth arms deal. Tehran will buy 250 Su-30MKM warplanes and 20 IL-78 MKI fuel tankers, in a deal running into tens of billions of dollars, reports indicate. Iran will get delivery of the first aircraft before the end of 2007.

However, neither Moscow nor Tehran has confirmed that any such deal is on the cards. If it does go through, this transaction will be Russia's single largest arms deal in 30 years. On the other side, it will give Iran a long-range aerial attack capability, bringing targets across the Persian Gulf and Middle East, including Israel and Lebanon, within its reach.

The Su-30 has an operating limit of four-and-a-half hours, with a maximum range of 3,000 km. Aerial fuel tankers can extend its operating sustainability to 10 hours and its range to 8,000 km, at altitudes of 10km to 13km. This will make the Iranian air force the second largest in the region, next only to Israel. The reports also indicated that Iranian aircrews were already training on the new Sukhoi aircraft, and will be ready to start flying them early next year.

Moscow has apparently agreed to sell Tehran the same Sukhoi model as India received earlier this year. However, this seems extremely unlikely, as India's Su-30s are equipped with Israeli avionics. Russia began delivering the same craft in June 2007 to Malaysia, which also sought Israeli avionics, but Tel Aviv refused point blank. Besides, some of the plane's systems are made by Thales of France, and the contract will have to be cleared with Paris as well.

The Su-30 MKM has a two-member crew. The first pilot flies the aircraft, controls weapons and manoeuvres the plane. The co-pilot employs BVR air-to-air and air-to-ground guided weapons in long-range engagements, sweeps the arena for enemy craft or missiles and is the command-and-control in group missions. The closest western plane to the Su-30 MKM is the American F-15E fighter-bomber.

Original article posted here.

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