January 18, 2006:
Iran is buying five Russian Tu-204 airliners to replace some of the aging American aircraft (like 1970s era C-130s) that it is still using. The Tu-204 is a two engine jet, that can carry up to 210 passengers, or 21 tons of cargo. The Iranians are getting a version of the 204 that can quickly be converted into all-passenger or all-freighter use. The Tu-204 weighs about 100 tons, and can fly 4,000 kilometers per hop. It is a relatively inexpensive airliner in its class, costing about $35 million each. Iran is not supposed to be able to buy military transports, but Russia is willing to pretend that the Tu-204s won't be used mainly for military purposes, just like the older American aircraft they are replacing.