by: John Sabe - posted (or last updated): 20th, December 2008
While most Western aviation experts and reporters are writing about Iran's Air force, something they have proven to know very little about, they are no different than the perplexed CIA new recruits sitting in cafe's in the Green Zone of Baghdad wondering how little information they can gather from their Iranian counterparts.
When these new recruits travel to Iran with fake passports from Canada or Switzerland or UAE, they have access to even less information than what they could gather from arms dealers and know-it-alls in the Baghdad market. Most often these new recruits get frustrated of not being able to do their job and are unable to sink their teeth into something juicy on Iranian military or its asymmetrical capabilities or personnel intelligence. Eventually many of these recruits end up quitting and returning back to their lives as Iranian-Americans working in Orange County and L.A, from where they were recruited by the agency.
After all the expense paid for by the American taxpayer, nothing much is achieved and the agency reverts back to even more wire tapping of conversations between Iranians contacting their relatives back home and continue to work on new ways to break into Iranian embassies around the world and steal their ciphering algorithmic code so they can intercept governmental communications. The new recruits vanish back into their normal daily lives - stuck in the traffic.
They are the victims of Iran's military strategies, namely obscurity and self sufficiency. Since early 1970's (unbeknown to even the American personnel in Iran) obscurity has been an essential component of the Iranian defense strategy, and the other being self sufficiency. The Iranian Air Force had already started building a supply chain management system in order to build some of the parts for the expensive weapons being purchased by the Shah. The Americans were surprised that any F14s could still fly by mid 1980s and believed that no F14 Tomcat can be flown since no parts were being provided to Iran after the Embassy hostage takeover. Until 1986 when they actually got to see the parts, in person, they had assumed that Russians must have been involved in supporting Iran as it was incomprehensible that Iran could be reverse-engineering, manufacturing, and maintaining its fleet on its own.
For those that are not familiar with Iran, it must be noted that most senior Iranian military strategists today were trained at some point in U.S. and often have extensive knowledge of American military thinking. Many of these individuals possess a 30+ year adversarial experience with U.S. and have access to many of the U.S. military doctrine of war from the Vietnam era and the Cold War when Iran was a U.S. allay. I could not stress this point any stronger. Iranian key military leaders (and key political advisors) understand U.S. military, its thinking, decision making and operational planning, and things they had learned from the time when these two nations were close and trusting allies. Weapons technology can change rapidly, but military thinking can change little over time. Add to this the experiences gained from the Iraq-Iran war. One thing for certain, don't expect only a conventional military conflict with Iran, if that country is attacked.
What is particularly vexing is how motivated Iranian military personnel are. Contrary to all the reports in the Western media, Iranian senior military planners are very professional and immensely motivated. While U.S. and European analysts assume that Iranian regular armed forces are less aggressive and more professional than the Revolutionary Guard, this does not amount to a bowl of beans when military conflict begins. The Revolutionary Guard are as (or more) motivated as U.S. Marines and probably far more aggressive. The Revolutionary Guard naval strike center still holds Thursday night weekly prayers for the 290 victims of the Iranian commercial airliner that was shut down by the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf in 1988. They would love to pay U.S. back for that debt, even if it costs them their lives.
Iran's military weapons development and production is not advanced by any means compared to what we all know of U.S. capabilities and its military industrial complex. But don't disregard Iran's capabilities as one that is only able to rebuild/reproduce 1950's designed aircrafts like that of Northrop F5A with cannibalization and two slanted tail fins, as Western media suggest. Or the other on the extreme opposite that compared it to an F18. In fact neither is true.
The most obvious error in their reporting is that the Iranian Azarakhsh and the Saegeh are actually based on 1970s upgraded F5E/F and not the 1950s designed F5A. This may not mean a lot to most people but to Aerospace and Aviation Designers and Engineers familiar with the differences between the two, it makes a lot of sense in terms of technology capability. If you have flown the two in combat, then there is no question that they are different aircrafts.
While many Western 'aviation experts' and reporters express their surprise for Iranian, supposedly, wasted efforts to copy the 'old' F5, they are seriously misunderstanding Iran's military strategy and its manifestation.
If you speak with Iranian pilots who have flown the F5E/F, you would soon have a love affair with that aircraft yourself, the same as they do. They can tell you some amazing stories that describe that aircraft's maneuverability. Among all the different aircrafts in the Iranian arsenal, the F5E/F is bar far the most popular for dog fighting and is loved and cherished for its versatility and simplicity - specially for ground attack operations. The F14 is the most respected and the F4 Phantom is the admired workhorse. They have little or no love affair for anything else in their inventory. They do have some affection for the Su-25 for being a solid aircraft.
For those people that suggest the Iranian Air Force will not last more than a few minutes against the invincible U.S. Air Force or the Israelis, I would suggest that you are thinking is not applicable.
Consider how a few hundred militia from Hezballah can hold the entire Israeli armed forces to a standstill. The Israelis were so desperate they targeted civilians, and not just Shia but also Sunnis, and Christians. While foolish people may regard Israeli bombings of civilian as a sign of strategic targeting of the enemy's support structure, this is far from reality - and the foolish one do not understand tribal support philosophy. If you want to know the truth, ask Israelis in Tel Aviv. They would admit openly that the 2006 war was the first time in their history since 1948 that they lost a war and did not achieve their objectives at a great cost to their military. Israelis see war in a very strategic way rather than simply a display of power projection. They believe they lost their invisibility in the minds and hearts of muslims throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Mostly, Israelis regret the increase in confidence and experience that Hezballah has gained from the 2006 war. They take this very serious and know that no good will come out of the new dynamics as they must go back and face their enemy eventually, again, while it is getting stronger and bolder by the day. The 2006 war provides an insight into the potential future conflict between U.S./Israel and Iran and how the later is preparing for war.
Iran has spent a considerable share of its defense budget on its naval forces (which consist of both regular and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), believing that the Persian Gulf will be its front line in the event of a confrontation with the U.S. or Israel.
Military leaders in Iran believe that U.S. Achilles' heel is unfettered access to the Persian Gulf and hence the Saudi ******* oil fields and refineries like Aramco's Ras Tanura, and Aramco/ExxonMobile Yanbu which together produce and process almost one million barrels per day. The U.S. is not necessarily concerned about the temporary loss of refined products as it imports heavily from Canada which will not experience interruptions to fuel delivery to U.S. However, the causal effect will increase gasoline prices to $10 per gallon or higher and will result in an International crisis. Iranian leaders know exactly where to hurt U.S. if it decides to attack Iran and there will a global economic meltdown and more criticism for yet another U.S. instigated war and tragic consequences. At a time like this, who needs more global economic problems.
Iran's has a clear naval war-fighting doctrine that suits its revolutionary fervor, and has developed innovative, asymmetric naval warfare tactics that exploit its favorable geographic situation, build on its strengths, and targets the U.S. vulnerabilities in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.
Sine the 1988 shooting down of the Iranian Airliner, Iranian intelligence agents have been tabulating and assessing American targets throughout Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries. Most people living in the oil regions of Saudi Arabia are in fact Shia and not Sunni. If Iran opened the tap, Saudi Arabia can be engulfed into another civil war as we witnessed in Iraq.
Iraq is also another front to this asymmetrical warfare that Iran intends to unleash. Proxy wars will have multiple fronts in even multiple continents. It will not be pretty.
Pundits have long speculated on Iran's military weapons and their capabilities. Reports have been published by news agencies on a range of military equipment that Iran has supposedly purchased. If you believe these reports, then Iran has 250 Su30s, and 30+ Mig31s, and hundreds of other military weapons, of course if you believe all the nonsense.
There are however some individuals that are very familiar and have real first hand knowledge of the Iranian aviation industry and their design and manufacturing capabilities. These individuals work with Iranian arms acquisition and weapons industry in clear view of both sides and their intelligence apparatus. This convenient arrangement serves both sides and is beneficial to all parties involved.
Some are Aviation Consultants contracted to Boeing and other Corporations and some are registered consultants for certain front companies that visit Iran on a regular basis and hold discussions with Iran's arms dealers. Everyone involved is aware of the incestuous nature of this affair. You would be surprised to find out how much information the intelligence agencies are willing to share with one another. Specially information that is inconsequential. But in the last couple of years, there has been less of this going on due to the sanctions as Iran does not want U.S. to have access to any information whatsoever that would result in the interception of goods and equipment for the Iran's military industry.
For instance, during the boom of the Internet in late 1990s, a dotcom company was approached by a U.S. agency to offer employment to a Russian Aviation Engineer. After a period of negotiation, the Engineer received all the necessary papers to move to U.S. and start his new job. Once he arrived at Seatac Airport near Seattle, he was detained. He quickly accepted a new offer, reached a financial agreement and started his new life in Renton, Washington. Soon after this incident, and the information provided by the Russian Engineer, a German man was detained in Florida. He had moved to U.S. and had purchased a golf course in Orlando to enjoy his well earned retirement.
Both men had been been participants at the early stages of a project in Iran called Morgh Ashura (and a ton of other names that serves Iran's desire for obscurity) which was based on a design from one of the German aviation projects that the German Defense Ministry had undertaken years earlier for fighter jet research and design as well as stealth technology assessment.
This German project received a generous funding from the German government while it lasted and was deemed very successful (feasibility stage and technology assessment), although after 9 years it was canceled since the German Air Force had decided to purchase the Eurofighter instead, and the funding dried up.
One of the main contributing Aviation Designer/Engineers on this German project (the German golf enthusiast) was offered a job in the Aviation Department of Iran's Sharif University of Science and Technology, soon after a new project was being planned in Iran for a Stealth Fighter Jet.
Sharif Univeristy is the same university that Newsweek regarded as one of the best universities in the world. In 2003, administrators at Stanford University's Electrical Engineering Department were startled when a group of Iranian students aced the notoriously difficult Ph.D. entrance exam, getting the highest scores ever in the schools history.
A host of American university academia from Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard, as well as some Aviation Consultants from Washington state, visit Sharif on a regular basis to improve academic relationships between U.S. and Iran and for gathering further information on its technological advancements and current projects. Many of the students at Sharif receive employment offers (directly and indirectly) in order to have Iran's military industry deprived of such great minds.
Iranian students who have developed an international reputation as science superstars, are now displaying their prowess in electrical, mechanical, aerospace and automation engineering. The best of the best end up working for Iranian Aircraft Industries, Malek Ashtar's Aeronautical Research Center and Iran’s Aerospace Organization and the various joint projects that are managed through the Ministry of Defence. The planning at this level (not inteferred by clerics) is exceptional even compared to Western standards.
Morgh Ashura may have been organically a German design, but the Iranian zest for engineering problem-solving, their desire for self-sufficiency, and their motivation to demand respect from countries that labeled them as Axis of Evil is certainly evident with their newly displayed prototype flown at Shiraz military base in October under the cover of darkness. Few could have imagined that Iran could have had such an ambitious project that includes advanced suite of electronics, flight control software with Auto-pilot and advanced ADA software compilers, RAM, and thrust vectoring.
Illustration of the new Iranian Prototype Fighter Jet (known by one of its names, Morgh Ashura)
Although the new aircraft is far from seeing manufacturing and production and still has some incomplete subsystems, Iran has proven (at least to some aviation specialists from within the industry) that it can one day develop an impressive fighter jet that may be comparable to the F35 Stealth Fighter.
The Iranian jet with its confusing designations that can vary vastly, is indeed an impressive endeavor. With its extensive use of composite material and titanium delivered from Ireland, and manufacturing tools such as laser cutting and welding tools, and computer automation technology that brings nostalgic reminders of the coolest engineering projects you have seen since working at concept design centers at Airbus in Toulouse, or BAE in Filton, Bristol.
If you are not impressed with the Iranian research and design capabilities then you would be of their audacity to try on such an ambitious project. If you still doubt their devotion, then you will be astonished when they remind you that an Iranian university student from Teheran spend 2 years putting together shredded (yes shredded) CIA documents after the embassy takeover in 1979 and compiled 4 CIA operational manuals (large documents).
Anybody who is familiar with Iranians and their culture, would tell you that they are very resourceful people. They can do something with nothing - that is far more than most Americans that I have met can do. Boeing, Lockheed, BAE, Airbus, and EADS are indeed impressive corporations with huge resources, infrastructure, innovation, and an amazing history of manufacturing and production. But if you compare what Iran can achieve with so little, you will be shocked. Each of these companies I mentioned above, have some serious operational challenges that are hidden away from public and continue as normal by throwing astronomical amounts of money at their internal problems.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is so impressed with Iran's future potential military capability that they have substantially increased recruits for clandestine operations against Iran, for now and in the future. A dozen more universities around U.S. are now teaching Persian Language, and a new agency doctrine in 2003 to recruit female Iranian agents from Southern California and newly arrived Iranians in Canada.
As CIA has found out, Iran's aviation research and design is very vibrant and conceptual designs are based on surprisingly high levels of knowledge and innovation - easily compared to what you would see in the EADS Defense design center. Iranian students are exceptional in electronics engineering and they seem to have an unimaginable passion for designing advanced concepts for the military industry, in particular aviation.
While speculation drives all the nonsense rumors in the Western media, the Iranian obscurity has achieved what Iranians have wanted for over a century - that is self-sufficiency and independence from foreign dependency. As more sanctions are placed on Iran, the more they will rise in developing capabilities, and ultimately, self reliance.
We all accept that advanced design concepts and R&D does not automatically result in a squadron of fighter jets. But no one can doubt the level of engineering that Iran's visionaries can dream. And dreams are becoming a reality under the watchful eyes of the American and European Intelligence community.
Who would have assumed that Iranian's can partake a project comparable to aircrafts designed and developed by Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works and Boeing Phantom Works.
Skeptics still point to the fact that Iranian manufacturing, planning, management, production, funding, and organization is like something from the medieval times and the Iranian leadership and its corrupt ruling party have project development skills that resemble clinical schizophrenia.
What is important is that despite all control obsessions of the clerics that is often bordering paranoia and delusionary ideas on management styles and organizational behavior, you would be surprised to see what Iranian military specialists have accomplished in overhauling projects, upgrades, and maintenance programs completely immune to the interference and limitless stupidity of those with power, at local and national levels. Some of the stories your hear from Iranian aviation personnel would simply leave you speechless where ancient religious ideals are enforced by the clerics in manufacturing without any reason or logic whatsoever.
That, as an observer, is the real strength of Iran - being able to function and grow with all that is working against it. And the only thing that foreign powers (or internal traitors) can do is to slow it down but never to a halt. Iran Air Force Industry: New Fighter Jet
My Opinion :
Iran Have history of Bluffing