Efforts by Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to urgently acquire combat aircraft to assist with the battle against Isis rebels have already born fruit in the form of Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” attack aircraft from Russia and Iran.
Iranian Air Force
Brigadier General Alireza Barkhor, the deputy commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, has stated that a two-seat derivative of the country’s homemade Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) fighter will be unveiled in a matter of months. He was hopeful that the aircraft could be ready in time to take part in the April 18 flypast over Tehran as part of National Army Day.
Iran appears determined to not only maintain its enormous fleet of hundreds of Bell helicopters in the wake of the ongoing U.S. arms embargo against it, but also to make indigenous and unauthorized copies of them. In 2006, Bell filed suit against Iran for making unauthorized knock-offs of several models including 206s and 205s.
Western powers increasingly characterize Iran as a potential cause for instability in the Middle East. The U.S. and its allies charge Tehran with funding and supporting the insurgency in Iraq, maintaining a well-developed ballistic missile program and seeking its own nuclear arsenal.
Iranian customers have recently placed orders for 15 locally built Shahed-278 light helicopters, but suppliers from around the world see Iran as a market ripe for development. The interest reflects the growing demand for modern rotorcraft to support Iran’s flourishing oil, shipping and construction business industries, as well as for medevac and VIP travel.