Procurement: Iran Schemes and Succeeds


June 20, 2023: Iran recently procured two Airbus A340-212 jet transports formerly used by the French Air Force. The French sold them to a company in Indonesia that turned out to be owned by Iranian Mahan Air. Economic sanctions prevent Iran from buying airliners legally, so Iran resorts to illegal deals, usually involving older Airbus and Boeing aircraft. The market for second-hand airliners is large but involves a lot of older aircraft that don’t have much useful (flying) life left. Such was the case with the two A340-212s. Both are nearly 30 years old but are ideal for military use because they have exceptional range (13,800 kilometers) and four engines. This makes them safe for flying long distances to remote airports. France has interests in many African and South American nations and this made the A340-212s idea.

France didn’t discover that the Indonesian firm that bought the two airliners was secretly owned by Iran, as was the company in the central African nation of Mali where the aircraft were supposed to go. Instead, the aircraft landed in Iran and became part of Mahan Air, the state owned Iranian firm that operates a fleet of illegally obtained airliners. Mahan regularly flies weapons from Iran to Syria, Lebanon and even more distant destinations. The A340-212 are ideal for long distance work because they were designed for that sort of thing. Only 28 A340-212s were built in the 1990s and only six are still in use.

Israel sometimes destroys Mahan air aircraft on the ground in Syria, after they had flown in missiles and other weapons from Iran. With the A340-212 Iran can fly military cargo to Syria, unload it at Damascus airport and then fly right back to Iran. Mindful of this sort of thing, Israel recently carried out an airstrike on the Damascus airport and damaged the main runway and other airport facilities. Mahan Air probably won’t use the A340-212s for flights to Damascus but rather use them for longer flights to other more distant trouble spots where Iran is involved militarily or economically.




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