Bordering each the Soviet Union to the east and Soviet aligned Arab nationalist states to the west, and enriched by a spike in oil costs within the Nineteen Seventies, Iran emerged as a number one shopper for high finish American and British armaments throughout that decade. This not solely supplied a serious boon to Western defence industries, but in addition positioned additional stress on the defences of NATO adversaries as Iranian offensive capabilities grew considerably. Though this could have large ranging impacts on Iranian army energy, from its fleet of innovative tankers for aerial refuelling to its British Chieftain tank items that outnumbered these of the British Military itself, maybe probably the most notable asset Iran got here to subject was the F-14 Tomcat heavyweight fighter. The Tomcat was the primary fighter of the fourth technology to enter service anyplace on the planet, and the primary of its technology ever exported, with Iran being the one shopper due largely to its excessive price. The F-14 was by far the biggest and heaviest fighter on the planet, and would stay so for a number of a long time, which allowed it to retain a for much longer vary and carry outsized sensors and missiles for an incredible fight potential. The end result was an plane with very excessive operational prices which no air power aside from that of Iran was keen to finance, with Britain discovering it unaffordable and even the U.S. Air Nationwide Guard, which evaluated it to be the perfect suited to defending the American mainland, pressured to depend on the smaller and less expensive F-15 as a consequence of price constraints.
Deliveries of the F-14 made Iran the second operator of fourth technology fighters after the U.S. Army, with the U.S. Navy fielding F-14s from 1974 and the Air Power fielding the F-15 from the next 12 months simply months earlier than the primary F-14s reached Iran. The Tomcat’s functionality benefits over its rivals primarily centred round its sensor suite and missiles, with a degree of situational consciousness in a league of its personal and rivalled solely by the Soviet MiG-31 interceptor that turned operational in 1981. The AIM-54 Phoenix missile was the primary and for shut to twenty years the one one on the planet with ‘fireplace and overlook’ capabilities as a consequence of its energetic radar steerage, which mixed with a really massive warhead, Mach 5 pace and excessive 190km vary making it fully unrivalled. The missile was too heavy to be employed by different plane, which neverthless lacked sensors highly effective sufficient to make efficient use of it.
To put the AIM-54’s capabilities in perspective, the F-15’s AIM-7 missile wanted to be guided all through its course by the fighter’s radar as a consequence of its poorer steerage system, and will solely interact as much as 70km away or simply over one third of the vary. With 79 F-14s cut up between two items based mostly at Esfahan and Shiraz, there was little doubt that the Iranian Air Power had a extra succesful fighter class than another air power on the planet, rivalled solely by the U.S. Navy’s personal F-14s. Whereas the F-15 would wrestle towards Soviet Su-27, MiG-31 and even older MiG-25 jets, the F-14’s capabilities notably for enhanced U.S. Navy variants from the Nineteen Eighties and early 90s wouldn’t have any close to peer challengers into the twenty first century domestically or overseas – albeit partly as a consequence of competing Soviet applications such because the MiG-31M being terminated within the Nineties.
The Iranian F-14 fleet demonstrated its superior capabilities through the Iran-Iraq Conflict from 1980-88, when the jets had been made precedence targets for Iraqi strikes through the warfare’s opening hours. Iraqi Tu-16 bombers, not designed for low altitude bombing, focused Esfahan Airfield housing 39 F-14s however didn’t destroy any runways or any of the fighters themselves, whereas 4 longer ranged Iraqi Tu-22s tarted Shiraz Airbase the place the remaining Tomcats had been based mostly and equally didn’t destroy any. Though Iranian forces had been overwhelmingly outmatched on land by Iraq’s Soviet-supplied tanks, and within the air its older F-4 and F-5 fighters misplaced the warfare’s preliminary engagements to Iraqi MiG-21s, the F-14’s deployment present a a lot wanted enhance. The fighter’s first kill, gained utilizing the AIM-54 missile, was achieved on September 10 1980 neutralising an Iraqi Su-22 variable swept wing strike fighter. This got here as a shock to the Iraqi Army which had assessed the F-14s had been out of service, and would have loved a major benefit within the air in any other case. Iraq lacked any fourth technology fighters or interceptors of its personal, and whereas its high fight jet the MiG-25 would later show greater than able to tackling F-15s flown by the U.S. Air Power, towards the F-14 each Iraqi asset was far outmatched. Whereas the primary engagement between the MiG-25 and F-14 on February 15, 1982, noticed each harm the opposite however neither past restore, the AIM-54’s distinctive capabilities paired with the Tomcat’s sensors made it the one fighter on the planet able to dependable neutralising MiG-25s with an estimated six shot down through the warfare.
Regardless of the F-14’s excessive upkeep wants and low availability charges, the Tomcats had been answerable for extra kills towards Iraqi fighters than all different Iranian belongings mixed – an estimated 140 kills in air to air fight. The plane’s excessive endurance additionally allowed it to escort F-4s and their tankers on strike missions deep into Iraqi airspace with out the necessity to refuel itself, with all Iraqi plane aside from the MiG-25 taking heavy losses towards it. The third technology Soviet MiG-23 and French Mirage F1 took the heaviest losses to F-14s in air to air fight, though Iraqi MiG-23ML jets nonetheless proved probably the most able to tackling the F-14 partially as a consequence of the truth that the MiG-25 fleet was usually assigned bombing duties. MiG-23s shot down Tomcats on August 11, 1984, September 2, 1986 and probably on January 17, 1987 though some sources attributed this loss to a MIG-25. The deployment of the MiG-25BM digital assault jet by Iraq in restricted numbers through the warfare’s closing months supplied the aptitude to reliably get previous the F-14s and strike key Iranian targets, which triggered better considerations for NATO the place F-15s and F-4s had been anticipated to fare appreciable worse towards the area of interest new Soviet jets.
In the end the F-14 remained Iran’s most excellent asset all through the Iran-Iraq Conflict, and as a consequence of a scarcity of subsequent acquisitions stays the high Iranian Air Power fighter to this present day. Regardless of important upgrades together with improvement of superior replacements for the AIM-54 missile, nevertheless, the fighter’s elite standing within the area and wider world has largely been misplaced as a consequence of its age. Iran’s standing as a world main air energy, which was finest symbolised by the F-14 buy, has additionally diminished vastly within the subject of fighter aviation, though it has largely compensated with the demonstrated capabilities of its indigenous air defence techniques and drones. Whereas Iran within the twenty first century did develop into one of many first nations on the planet to subject stealth plane in fight, it did so not by buying high finish fighters from overseas however moderately by creating stealth drones such because the Shahed 191 and utilizing them in Iraq, Syria and Israel. Unmanned aviation has thus changed manned plane as Iran’s main supply of army status within the air.