Will Iran buy French warplanes?

There were important security aspects to Laurent Fabius’ visit to Iran last week — the first by a French foreign minister in 12 years. After the trip, Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nowbakht said that “France could satisfy our need for Mirage warplanes … buying new Mirage planes is the first priority of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force [IRIAF].”

During the first Gulf War, Iran gained access to a small number of Iraqi Dassault Mirage F-1 warplanes. The aircraft were moved to Iran from fear of destruction in dogfights with more modern Western planes. Rather than returning them, Iran seized the aircraft as part of compensation for its 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Iran now possesses 24 Mirage F-1BQ and F-1EQ planes. It is not clear exactly how many of these fighters are operational. From the very beginning, Iran has had many problems in operating them. As the plane radars are designed for French and American air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, Iran had for years serious problems with supplies, installation of radar, available missile synchronization and pilot training. However, it has been able to operate the F1 aircraft using domestically made missiles and making some alterations to the radar as well as the low-altitude navigation and infrared targeting systems.

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This article was written by Abbas Qaidaari for Al-Monitor on August 3, 2015. Abbas Qaidaari is an Iranian international security and defense policy analyst.