The U.S. has now
forbidden the sale of any F-14 aircraft components. This is to prevents Iran
from getting any parts with which to keep its dwindling fleet of F-14s
operational. All surplus F-14s, and F-14 components, must be destroyed. The
U.S. Navy has been doing that, since last year, to the retired F-14s it has.
It is believed that Iran has restored at
least three of its three-decade old F-14A jets to operational status. More
F-14As are to be restored this year. There is, however, the matter of
credibility and capability. For decades, Iran has continually boasted of new,
Iranian designed and manufactured weapons, only to have the rather more somber
truth leak out later. Iran's weapons design capabilities are primitive, but the
government has some excellent publicists, who always manage to grab some
headlines initially, before anyone can question the basic facts behind these
amazing new weapons.
For example, Iran says it began its
F-14 restoration project in 2002. In that same year, Iran announced that 25, of
the 79 F-14As it bought in the 1970s, were still operational. It's long been
known that Iran began cannibalizing some of its F-14s, back in the 1980s, to
keep others flying. During the 1980s, the F-14s were heavily used in the war
with Iraq. In 1985, 25 Iranian F-14s flew over Tehran as part of a celebration.
In the last year of the war, 1988, an
F-14 shot down an Iraqi jet, one of over 80 knocked down by their F-14s since
1980. That much is known, because there were witnesses and other evidence.
Less well known is that Iran
established a smuggling operation to obtain F-14 parts, and manufactured some
itself. Russia also helped with some custom made parts and refurbishment
services. But going into the 1990s, fewer and fewer Iranian F-14s were seen in
the air. Whenever an F-14 took off it was big news, and difficult to hide. Word
got around, and with hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in exile, the
word was passed on. Thus the 2002 claim that 25 Iranian F-14s were operational,
was not taken seriously. The new claims, that three are flyable, appear to be
true. Some F-14s have been seen in the air, but don't expect another major, or
even minor, flyover in Tehran. Iran says it is making new weapons for the F-14,
without mentioning that the supply of U.S. made missiles ran out over a decade
ago. The F-14 also needs new electronics, as parts for those items are much
harder to get, than items needed to just get the aircraft into the air. Iran
can, at great effort and expense, get a dozen or so F-14s airborne. But once
flying, these ancient and jury-rigged aircraft, are more target than threat.
The new U.S. regulations ban the export
of any F-14 components. Only museums and other history minded groups, can
legally possess F-14 components, or inoperable versions of the aircraft.