The Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), entangled in a bloody civil war that will soon reach its four-year mark, relies heavily on Russia and Iran to keep attrition from diminishing its firepower. After having upgraded several SyAAF Mi-17s with armour plates and FLIR cameras, stationing Mojaher 4, Yasir and Shahed 129 UAVs in Syria and even providing an Il-76TD to the SyAAF on behalf of Syrian Air, Iran is now further consoldating its stake in the conflict by the delivery of ten Su-22s to Syria.
These ten aircraft, part of a batch of 40 flown to Iran during Operation Desert Storm for safekeeping, were finally overhauled in recent years after idly standing around at Shiraz airbase for decades while their fate was decided upon. Initially regarded as “guests” and maintained only to keep them in good condition, they were formally put into Iranian possession in July 1993 but could not be made operational due to budgetary constraints: A team of Ukrainian technical advisors were contracted to overhaul the Su-22s, but at the time this proved to be too expensive for the ill-funded Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). Instead, the IRIAF was to restore the ten Su-22M-3 and Su-22M-4s to operational condition without any foreign help by using other Su-22s and Su-20s as a source for spare parts. This programme only commenced in 2013, when the Revolutionary Guard’s Pars Aviation embarked on the task of bringing the first Su-22s back to operational condition. […]