Of course, such news could not but arouse very lively discussions on the VO and, in the light of the opinions expressed, it would be interesting to compare the potential of the Iranian Air Force with the air group of a single American aircraft carrier. Can Abraham Lincoln seriously threaten Iran, or is it just a paper tiger?
"Abraham Lincoln" in person
Iranian Air Force: a short and sad story
Until 1979, the Iranians were fine with the Air Force - the Americans "took patronage" over them, providing the air forces of this country with a very perfect materiel, including heavy Tomcat F-14A fighters (actually interceptors that can be considered the American counterpart of our MiGs -25 and MiG-31), multipurpose F-4D / E "Phantoms" and light F-5E / F "Tiger". Thus, the Iranian Air Force was armed with a modern and efficient line of tactical aircraft, and in addition, the United States also supplied them with basic patrol aircraft aviation P-3F Orion, military transport aircraft S-130N Hercules, transport and refueling aircraft based on the Boeing 707 and 747. In addition, obviously, the United States assisted in the training of pilots of this aircraft.
However, then the Islamic revolution came, and everything flew to Tartar. The Americans fully favored the shah of Iran, but still did not dare to speak out on his defense weaponsbecause the latter too clearly violated human rights - in fact, in those years, the opposition to the Shah did not have any such rights at all. But, naturally, it would never occur to anyone in the United States to “make friends” with the Islamist revolutionaries, so Iran immediately fell under American sanctions.
The result is the following. Iran still possessed a significant fleet of American aircraft, but, not having some developed aviation industry, could not, of course, provide this fleet with the necessary spare parts and qualified repairs. He also could not replenish stocks of anti-aircraft missiles, buying them from the United States. And besides, as we know, the pilots of the Air Force are the elite of the armed forces, and many of them have been betrayed by the shah. Others occupied high posts with him - and this, alas, was enough for the victorious revolutionaries to consider the Air Force as "politically unreliable" and to arrange a "great purge", thereby depriving themselves of a significant number of well-trained pilots. And, alas, there was nowhere to take new ones.
Thus, by the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted from 1980 to 1988 and which became the only major conflict in which the Iranian pilots had participated, the Air Force of the victorious Islamic revolution was not met with the best condition. They still had several hundred combat aircraft at their disposal, but there was nowhere and nothing to repair and maintain them, and there were not enough pilots.
The result is the following. During the fighting, the Iranian Air Force demonstrated a marked superiority over the Iraqi rival: Iranians were better at air operations, and losses in air battles were significantly lower than Iraqi ones. But with all of this, the Iranians did not manage to smash the Iraqi air forces and ensure air supremacy, and then non-combat losses quickly began to show: for example, by the beginning of 1983, the share of combat-ready aircraft hardly exceeded 25% of their fleet. The rest required repair, or were “cannibalized” for parts.
Thus, by the end of 1988, the Iranian Air Force was literally “at the broken trough” - no aircraft, no pilot training systems, no spare parts, no aircraft equipment - nothing. It is clear that this situation was unacceptable.
In 1990, Iran purchased the 12 Su-24МК, 18 MiG-29 and 6 MiG-29UB from the USSR, and in addition, some F-7М were purchased in China, representing a Chinese clone of the MiG-21. But then the Iranians literally received a royal gift: during the “Storm in the Desert” a significant part of the Iraqi Air Force, in order to avoid the destruction of multinational forces by aircraft, flew to the airfields of Iran.
The Iranians did not return these planes, preferring to consider them as an unexpected, but therefore no less pleasant, reparation for the Iran-Iraq war. True, the question remains whether Iran has trained pilots for these aircraft.
The current state of the Iranian Air Force
It is rather difficult to judge about it, because, first, the numbers of the aircraft available to the Air Force are somewhat different, and secondly, it is unclear which of them can take off and fight, and which exist only "for show" and today day are not capable. According to Col. A. Rebrov, the share of Iran’s combat-ready aircraft is:
1. F-14A "Tomcat" - 40%.
2. 4D / E Phantom - 50%.
3. F-5E / F Tiger - 60%.
The colonel does not say this directly, but on the basis of other figures given by him, it is most likely that Soviet and Chinese aircraft are in the best technical condition and have warheads of the order of 80% of the total, which, generally speaking, is a good indicator for any country.
Based on the foregoing, we will try to determine the number of combat-ready aircraft of the Iranian Air Force
F-14A "Tomcat" - 24 units In total, there are, according to various data, from 55 to 65 machines, the author took to calculate the average - 60 machines.
MiG-29 / U / UB - 29 units Their total number is 36, but many questions arise here. The fact is that of these, Iran bought only 24 machines from the USSR, and 12 “flew” to it from Iraq - today all these aircraft either turned 30 years old, or they exceeded this age. As it is known, there are practically no MiG-29 early series in Russia today, they all have exhausted their resources, and, to tell the truth, it is unlikely that they were served better in Iran. In addition, the MiG-29, generally speaking, was a very demanding machine for aircraft, it needed up to 80 man-hours of inter-flight service at 1 flight time (usually this figure ranges from 30 to 50 man-hours). In general, the author of this article has an assumption that either the MiG-29 is now completely incapacitated, or they still have a certain amount of resource, but there are no trained pilots. The logic is very simple - if the Iranians flew on them, then they had to exhaust the resource, and if they didn’t fly, then they do not have trained pilots for these aircraft.
Dassault Mirage F1 - 5 units counted although they are most likely incompetent. Iran has never bought these planes, and the 10 machines it contains are a “gift” of Iraq. It is unlikely that Iran, having neither pilots, nor spare parts, and nothing at all for the Mirage, and even under the conditions of sanctions, was able to somehow maintain them in a combat-ready state.
HESA Azarakhsh and HESA Saeqeh - 35 units (30 and 5 units, respectively). This is the pride of the Iranian aviation industry, which has mastered the production of analogue fighter F-5E / F "Tiger".
Iranians, of course, argue that their counterpart is improved in comparison with the prototype. But since the Iranian aviation industry is still taking only the first steps, with the same success we can assume that their planes are not an improved, but a degraded version of a car that is not bad for its time.
F-7M - 32 units This is a Chinese copy of the MiG-21, which Iran currently has 39 units, including combat training. Assuming that 80% of this amount in the ranks, we get the maximum 32 units.
And what about weapons? Well, there is one good news here - the Iranians have acquired from us some quite decent URVV P-73 short range. At one time, at the end of the last century, she deservedly could claim to be the best short-range aviarakety. Today, of course, this is far from being the most modern, but still formidable weapon in an air battle, capable of quite effectively shooting down any air targets.
No more good news.
Iran has managed to set up production of Fattar - short-range URVV from an infra-red hsn, but what kind of missiles they are and what they can - the author, alas, is unknown. It is possible, of course, that this is a copy of the P-73, or a product “based on”, but this is fortune telling on the coffee grounds, and in any case, these missiles will not be better than the P-73. In addition, it is possible that Iran still has some number of old Sidewind.
Medium-range missiles from the Iranians also exist, but which ones? This may be some surviving Sparrow and Soviet P-27 missiles. Alas, both have long since become obsolete, and their performance characteristics are thoroughly known to the Americans, so preparing their electronic means of countering the guidance of such missiles is not difficult for them. However, the Iranians have one more, oddly enough - the medium-range air combat missile that has no analogues in the world.
The fact is that, as is known, the Americans, complete with “Tomcats”, delivered to Iran a certain amount (according to some sources - 280) of long-range UVRV “Phoenix”. Apparently, the stocks of these missiles have long been exhausted, but the Iranians liked the idea. Therefore, they took the Hawk ground-based anti-aircraft missile system and ... adapted it for firing with the F-14A, thereby obtaining a very original air attack system capable of hitting air targets at a distance of 42 km. Of course, one can only admire the ingenuity of the Iranian military industry, and, probably, such weapons may well be effective against aviation by any of the Arab countries, but still the Hawk was adopted in 1960 and today the complex as a whole , and its rockets in particular, are unconditionally outdated.
Thus, we see that formally Iranian fighters are very, very numerous: 173 machines, of which, probably, 125 are “on the wing”. But of them, perhaps, only F-14A "Tomkat", in which the Iranians were taught to fly by the Americans, and which they successfully used in combat, have real combat significance. And also domestic MiG-29А, if the latter remained “on the wing” and if Iran has pilots prepared to fight for them.
Such airplanes, with the most daring assumptions, have Iranians in the ranks of no more than 55-60, while they are equipped with outdated avionics and armament (with the exception of Р-73) and, of course, in all articles lose to deck "Hornet" and "Superhornets" " Abraham Lincoln.
Su-24MK - 24 units in ranks, 30 units. in stock. That is, there is a full-fledged air regiment of these not the easiest to pilot, but still very dangerous planes.
F-4D / E Phantom - 32 units in ranks, 64 units. in stock.
F-5E / F "Tiger" - 48 in the ranks, 60 in stock.
Su-25 - 8 units In the ranks, 10 in stock.
Here, of course, the question may arise - why are the “Phantoms” and “Tigers” assigned not to fighters, but to bomber? It must be said that both of them are fully capable of using air-to-air air-launched air defense missiles, while the “Phantoms” “trained” to work with P-27 and P-73, and “Tigers” - only with P-73. Moreover, the “Phantomov” radar has been improved - the ability to see low-flying targets has been improved.
However, the Iranians themselves attributed them to the bomber aircraft. Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that both the Phantoms and the Tigers are already very old cars made before 1979. That is, today they serve about 40 for years or more and had not the best maintenance. Therefore, it is possible that the aircraft of these types, although they can take to the air and drop the bomb on the enemy, are still unable to conduct a maneuverable air battle with all its congestion.
We will not consider the full range of weapons of Iranian bombers, we only note that Iran was able to organize the production of guided bombs with television and laser seeker and air-to-surface missiles with a range of up to 30 km. But the greatest danger to warships are the anti-ship missiles C-801 and C-802, created in China.
C-802 in the foreground
C-802 is a subsonic 715 kg rocket equipped with an active radar seeker and a warhead weighing 165 kg. The firing range is 120 km, while the RCC is flying at an altitude of 20-30 m on the march, and 5-7 m is flying at the final part of the trajectory. C-802 "professes" the principle of "fired and forgotten", but correction is possible in flight from a ship or carrier aircraft. Chinese missiles of this type are also equipped with the GLONASS / GPS satellite navigation subsystem, but whether it is on the Iranian anti-ship missiles is unknown. The Chinese themselves assess the capabilities of the GOS C-802 very highly, believing that the AGNS of these missiles provides 75% the likelihood of a target being captured even in the conditions of electronic countermeasures. So it is, or not, is unknown, but, apparently, the GOS of this rocket is still more perfect than that of the first-generation anti-ship missiles. As for the C-801, the predecessor of the C-802, they are structurally similar in many respects, and the main difference lies in the engine: the C-801 is not a turbojet, but a less efficient solid-fuel engine that provides a range of more than 60 km.
PKR C-802 was established in China in 1989, currently Iran has mastered the production of its counterpart under the name "Nur". Thus, it can be assumed that the missiles of this type of Iranian air force are not lacking. In this case, the ability to use such missiles have both Su-24MK and F-4D / E "Phantom".
In addition to the C-802, X-58 anti-radar missiles can be dangerous for warships - having a mass of 640 kg and a mass of warhead 150 kg. It must be said that the X-58, being put into service in the already distant 1978, was subjected to numerous upgrades and therefore remains relevant to this very day, being one of the regular ammunition of the promising Su-57. Unfortunately, it is not known what kind of modification went to the Iranian Air Force, but nevertheless we note that the very first X-58 were able to induce radar, constantly changing operating frequencies.
Other aviation of Iran
As you know, today intelligence and electronic warfare play a huge role, but with this, alas, Iran’s not just bad, but just a black hole. Theoretically, the Iranian Air Force has an ARLO 2 aircraft, but, apparently, only one of them is working properly, and that one is limited in use. Iran does not have an EW aircraft, and, apparently, there are no modern EW suspension containers either. Of the rest of the fleet, only the Orion five patrol aircraft and six Phantoms converted into reconnaissance aircraft are suitable for reconnaissance.
Of course, the list of Iranian Air Force aviation is not limited to this. At the disposal of the Iranian military there is still a large number of light training transport and other non-combat aircraft and helicopters, and in addition, drones for various purposes, including a large number of heavy shock UAVs "Carrar", capable of carrying up to a ton of payload.
Avraham Lincoln Air Group
Unfortunately, it is not known exactly how many combat aircraft are currently on board this American aircraft carrier. It is possible that it carries a standard "reduced" wing in the 48 F / A-18E / F Super Hornet, or earlier F / A-18C Hornet, and also the EW EA airplanes supporting 4-5 -18G “Growler” and the same number of DRLO E-2C “Hokai” aircraft, not counting helicopters and so on. But, if the Pentagon admits the possibility of military actions, then the number of combat Hornets can easily be reduced to 55-60 units.
It is known that in the USSR for the destruction of AUG it was planned to use the 2 regiment of missile-carrying aircraft armed with Tu-22 aircraft under the cover of one, but better, two fighter aviation regiments and support aircraft.
If we consider the capabilities of the Iranian Air Force, we will see that they look quite impressive. Theoretically, Iran can use for the attack on AUG not 4, and no less than 6 units equivalent to domestic air regiments - 3 fighter on Tomcats, MiG-29 and Iranian Tiger clones and 3 bomber on Su-24MK, and Fantami. "Tiger". The main danger for the American air group will be 55-60 of Su-24MK and Phantom airplanes, which the Iranians will be able to equip C-802 and Nur anti-radar missiles, as well as X-58 anti-radar weapons, in a shock version.
Without a doubt, neither the "Tomkaty" nor the first series MiG-29 are unable today to withstand the deck "Hornet" in the air, operating with the support of DRLO and EW aircraft. On the "Tiger" and their Iranian "clones" and say nothing. But, considering the option of a possible confrontation, we note that this is not required of them.
In fact, the task of the Iranian Air Force will be to organize an airstrike with the entire mass of its capable aircraft, while the Su-24MK and Phantoms will be “hidden” in the mass of the Tigers, MiGs and Tomcats. Let's not forget that correctly identifying these planes by type will be rather difficult for American radars. They, of course, will find the Iranian aircraft, and identify them as hostile targets, but understand where the MiG is and where Su will not be easy. In other words, an American unit may find itself in a situation where a multitude of aircraft are attacking it from several directions, the number of which, again in theory, can reach 200 - the American air defense system will simply “choke” with so many targets.
In order to have at least minimal chances to withstand such a strike, the Americans will have to bring into battle a maximum of combat aircraft, preferably everything that is. But this will be possible only if the Abraham Lincoln completely abandons the shock operations and concentrates its air group to repel air attacks. But in this case, the AUG, obviously, will not be able to strike at the territory of Iran except as with Tomahawk cruise missiles, whose ammunition on escort ships is very limited. And even if the Americans succeed, and they will be able to meet the Iranian Air Force with all their fighters, each “super-cusp” will have Iranian planes on the 3-4.
Thus, the numerical composition and the performance characteristics of airplanes and their armaments by the Iranian Air Force in principle make it possible to crush a single US AUG. To do this, they should:
1. Spread out the strength of their aircraft. This is a classic of the air war - in the run-up to an enemy strike, remove aircraft from their permanent bases on civilian and military airfields prepared for this.
2. If possible, earlier detect AUG. This task is not easy, but not as difficult as it may seem at first glance, because to strike a strike, the US aircraft carrier must move closer to the coast of Iran from the Arabian Sea, or even stick in the narrowness of the Oman or Persian Gulf. These areas are distinguished by very dense shipping, and having deployed a sufficient number of transports or tankers there, as well as having established patrols by non-military aircraft, it is quite possible to detect AUG. The problem of the Americans will be that in the areas in which they are to operate, there is a very dense "traffic" of civilian ships and aircraft, so it will be extremely difficult to distinguish between them Iranian spies.
3. Ideally, wait for the attack of the US carrier-based aviation on any Iranian object.
4. And at that moment, when significant forces of the Avraham Lincoln wing were diverted to conduct a strike operation, raise the bulk of their aircraft and invest all their strength in a single blow to the US AUG.
In this case, the tasks of Iranian fighters of all types will, in fact, clarify the location of the AUG and divert to the "attention" of American carrier aircraft. The Iranian planes will be able to accomplish this task, albeit at the cost of enormous losses. And then - a strike by anti-ship and anti-radar missiles from Su-24 and Phantoms, it is quite possible to ensure the density of missiles under 100-120, which is quite enough to disable the aircraft carrier. In addition, if it is technically possible, it would be nice to let the Carrars drones to the side of the AUG (precisely to the side) - naturally, they will not cause any harm to the Americans, but will add an additional amount of “targets”, overloading the United States air defense.
So, the first conclusion: technically, the Iranian Air Force has the capacity to destroy the AUG, at least at the cost of extremely heavy losses of its own aircraft.
But can they do this in practice? Here the author of this article has big doubts. The fact is that the action described above on paper looks very simple, but in reality is a very complicated Air Force operation that cannot be carried out without the extremely serious prior training and the highest professionalism of the pilots. Where did they come from the Iranian Air Force?
Yes, they showed good results in the war against Iraq, but not nearly as high as they were in the wars against the Arab countries of the Israeli Air Force. It can be assumed that at that time, the Iranian air force in terms of combat training was somewhere in the middle between the air forces of other Arab countries and Israel, which means they were inferior to the US air forces. But more than 35 years have passed since then, those pilots who fought with the Iraqis are mostly retired. And could the Iranians, under the conditions of the sanctions, prepare them a decent shift? Does Iran have enough pilots for all available aircraft?
According to some data, today the Iranians are conducting quite intensive training with forces up to the regiment of attack aircraft, including with low-altitude flights and real launches of anti-ship missiles. But the maneuvers, under which a concentrated strike by masses of fighters and bombers on a naval target would be worked out, were not fixed. In other words, if all of a sudden, by some miracle, Iranian pilots gained the skill of warriors of naval-carrying naval aviation of the USSR times, then the author of this article would not doubt their success. But just where to get a wizard who would do such a miracle?
And from this follows a second conclusion: the Iranians, of course, have the technical ability to defeat a single American AUG, but it is far from a fact that the professionalism of the Iranian pilots and their commanders will allow it. It is quite possible that all that the Iranian air force suffices in the event of a conflict with the United States are sporadic attacks on relatively small groups of aircraft with which the Abraham Lincoln wing can easily cope.
Nevertheless, the author believes that the attempt to "punish" Iran with the forces of a single aircraft carrier borders on insanity. In order to ensure approximate parity in the air with the Iranian Air Force, Americans will need at least two aircraft carriers, three aircraft carriers will provide an advantage, and Americans will gain overwhelming superiority by concentrating four ships of this class for the operation.