With the growing defense partnership between Russia and Iran, Western officials anticipate that Moscow could supply some of its best military equipment to Tehran.
While the most widely speculated system is the Su-35E fighter jet, there are reports that Moscow could also be negotiating to supply the S-400 air defense system to Tehran.
According to US Officials, Russia could shed its past inhibitions and finally decide to sell its ‘most sophisticated’ air defense systems to Iran in return for a massive supply of drones and missiles.
Last week, the US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told The Washington Post, “We are concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with advanced military components.” Even though he did not specify which system but agreed “that could include air defense.”
Since Iran already operates the S-300 air defense system provided by Russia, the natural speculation is that S-400 could be considered for sale to the country.
S-400 is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) that can engage aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles at their terminal stages. It is the fourth generation of long-range Russian SAMs, which China, India, and Turkey also operate.
In October 2020, Russia’s then-ambassador to Iran said his country would have “no problem” selling Tehran an advanced air defense system when the UN arms embargo on the Islamic Republic is lifted.
At the time, the Russian Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan told an Iranian publication, “As you know, we have provided Iran with S-300. Russia has no problem delivering S-400 to Iran, and it did not have any problem before either.”
A Pentagon report titled Iran Military Power in 2020 said that Iran would try to rebuild its military by purchasing arms from Russia. “Iran has also shown interest in acquiring S-400 air defense systems and Bastian coastal defense systems from Russia,” the report said.
However, Iran has iterated that it does not need the Russian S-400 air defense systems, thanks to its domestic capabilities.
In August 2021, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported that the country was going to unveil its most advanced and indigenously developed air defense system that would outdo the capability of the Russian S-400.
Named Bavar-373, the system is reportedly a long-range air defense system capable of detecting up to 100 targets, tracking 60 of them, and engaging with six concurrently.
However, given the strengthening relationship between Moscow and Tehran, the speculations among Western officials have grown manifold.
A Full Fledged Defense Partnership
According to the US, Moscow has reportedly been providing Iran with various weaponry assets, including unidentified helicopters, air defense systems, and other support, such as the Su-35 training jet.
As part of this military trading between the two sanction-hit countries, the Russian government allegedly wants to acquire additional kamikaze drones and hundreds of Iranian short-range ballistic missiles.
Additionally, Moscow intends to collaborate with Iran on weapons development, with one potential joint venture being establishing a drone manufacturing facility in Russia.
John Kirby said that US intelligence assessments supported the latest allegations and that Russia gave Iran unprecedented military and technological support, transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership.
Moscow and Tehran had secretly agreed to start producing Shahed-136 kamikaze drones using Iranian designs on Russian soil.
However, with Russia’s supply running low and the start of production still months away, Iran has promised in recent weeks to significantly increase its supply of unmanned aerial vehicles to Moscow for the conflict in Ukraine, according to the US and its allies’ officials.
At least two talks between military and diplomatic representatives from Russia and Iran took place in November. According to reports, Iran had committed to providing up to 6,000 aircraft, predominantly Shahed, according to a senior military officer briefed on the nature of the talks. Iran had also acknowledged that it would be shipping its ballistic missiles to Moscow.
Against that backdrop, Western officials fear Iran would get Russia to sell some cutting-edge equipment to Tehran.
As previously reported by EurAsian Times, a potential sale of a Su-35E fighter jet has unnerved the West. However, there has been no official acknowledgment of such a sale by either side yet.
That being said, the Russian defense industry is currently reeling under tough sanctions. Half the world is unwilling to buy military equipment due to the ongoing war and the burgeoning Western pressure. Therefore, a deal with Iran for high-end military equipment could be on the cards.
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