Iran just finalized a deal for Russian Su-35 fighter jets. Are those the aircraft that were produced for Egypt?
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its freshly issued report today that Egypt, Russia’s second biggest buyer of weapons, “cancelled a large order for combat aircraft with Moscow in 2022.” It did not say which jet Cairo was close to buying, but it is well known that the country had been eyeing the Sukhoi Su-35.
The U.S. has openly expressed its unsettlement over Egypt’s interest in Su-35s. The issue was brought up when Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in a phone call in February 2021. Blinken told Shoukry that the U.S. was looking closely at Egyptian plans to buy 24 Su-35s, a contract whose value was pegged at $2 billion. Israel was also trying to persuade the U.S. to approve the sale of advanced F-15 Advanced Eagle fighter jets to Egypt.
“In the case of Egypt, I think we have good news in that we are going to provide them with F-15s, which was a long, hard slog,” Gen Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, during a March 2022 Senate hearing.
The SIPRI report said the Sukhoi deal was canceled “probably due to U.S. pressure,” adding fuel to the speculations.
In June 2022, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) said it was manufacturing an unspecified number of Su-35s for a "foreign customer. Analysts said these jets could have been built for Egypt.
Shahriar Heidari, MP and member country’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said in January this year that the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) will 24 Su-35s in March.
With Iran confirming its Su-35 deal this week, and officials saying that its Air Force will receive these jets in March, it is likely that the Iranian su-35s were the ones built for Cairo.
The Commander in Chief of the Iranian Air Force General Vahedi said in a televised show in September 2022 that Iran was buying 24 Su-35E “from Egypt’s order which are yet to be delivered due to pressure from the United States.”
General Vahedi added that at least 64 Su-35s will be procured from Russia.