How can Iran protect its skies from the US Air Force with the help of Russia and China?

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Iranian military officials today face the daunting task of getting ready to defend against air strikes by the US Air Force, and Moscow and Beijing are likely to help Tehran on this difficult issue.

"The Iranian Air Force, which was preparing to get spare parts for its fighter aircraft made in the United States in the 1970s, is unlikely to effectively confront modern American aviation," the National Inter magazine reported.

The author of the article, Sebastian Rublin, notes that in recent years Iran has relied on a variety of anti-aircraft missile systems, which work with the Air Defense Forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Today, Tehran uses many air defense systems imported from the United States and Europe half a century ago, but has no access to new spare parts and missiles, so Iran was forced to purchase a modest amount of air defense systems from China and Russia.

Rublin writes that to bridge the quantitative and modern gap, Iranian engineers carefully redesigned old systems and produced their modern local versions. The article also notes that the Islamic Republic of Iran has air defense systems that can track potential threats at long distances and at high altitudes. For example, Tehran is armed with the S-300 BMO, which before the emergence of the S-400 was protecting Russia.

In 2015, Moscow supplied it with four S-300BM batteries after Iran joined the nuclear deal.These complexes are currently deployed in Tehran, Isfahan and Bushehr. The writer notes that the Iranian military is also equipped with long-range S-200 missile systems despite its age, they protect Iranian airspace well, especially after modernization.

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                    AFP 2019 / ALI SHAYEGAN / FARS NEWS

S-200

Tehran also has medium-range air-to-air missiles in its arsenal, which can eliminate potential threats within tens of miles. This ammunition is also effective against highly maneuverable aircraft. Iran protects the RIM-66 SM-1MR missile system, which was pre-installed on U.S. Navy warships since the late 1960s. Its range is 22 miles. Tehran also has a US medium-range anti-aircraft missile system MIM-23 Hawk, which has a maximum flight range of about 25 miles, and its missiles are flying at Mach 2.4.

Sebastian Rublin notes that Iranian engineers are constantly developing and updating cloned systems obtained from overseas air defense systems. It also draws the attention of readers that Iran is armed with "S-75" Soviet, whose missiles can hit a target at a distance of 28 miles and fly 3.5 supersonic. However, it should be noted that talk about Chinese versions of HQ-2J, obtained by Tehran from Beijing.

The Iranian army has 2K12 "Kup" complexes, which protect Iran at medium altitudes. It is known that in the 1990s, Tehran imported 50 complexes of 2K12E. Iran also managed to acquire the anti-aircraft system, the Bok-M2, which can carry out short and medium-range combat operations against targets 2 to 30 miles and at high altitudes.

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                    AP Photo / Mikhail Metzel

Buck-M2 anti-missile defense system

Short-range air defense systems protect important forces and bases from helicopters, drones, attack aircraft and cruise missiles, the US publication says.

For these purposes, the Iranian military uses QW-1 complexes imported from China, which are a version of the 9K-38 "Igla", using thermally-guided missiles. Rublin notes that Tehran has been able to develop its own versions of the Chinese QW-1. Readers recall that in 2007, Iran acquired nearly thirty Tor-M1 ballistic missile systems from Russia, capable of destroying enemy targets within 1 to 8 miles.

"Iran also has a large number of anti-aircraft artillery, from the Cold War 23mm and 100mm C-19s (Soviet 100mm guns) – to domestic automatic artillery," says the publication.

Thus, Iran today possesses a mixture of old, modern and locally cloned air defense systems. The author notes that air defense systems, in their entirety, provide Tehran with a certain degree of deterrence, as they increase the complexity, costs and time required to launch air strikes on Iran, especially by regional enemies.



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