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Monthly Defense News – December 2023

Iran Reportedly Signs Deal to Buy Su-35SE and Mi28NME

On 28 November 2023, Iran’s defence minister, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani, announced that Tehran signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of Su-35SE Flanker-E fighter aircraft, Mi-28NME Havoc attack helicopters, and Yak-130 trainers.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) will take possession of the Su-35SEs and Yak-130s, while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will procure the Mi-28NMEs. Iran did not disclose the numbers nor delivery timelines. Moreover, Russia has yet to comment or confirm the matter.

The contract was reportedly signed following a visit by Russia’s defence minister, Sergey Shoigu, earlier in the fall in September. Shoigu met with the Iranian government to secure weapon systems for its ongoing war in Ukraine. Some reports claim that Tehran may supply Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles.

Previously, a Russian fighter deal to Iran was thought to have been in limbo due to disagreements over the munitions package, technology transfer, and other matters. However, both Tehran and Moscow have dire requirements, with the former soldiering through an obsolete fighter fleet (largely dating back to the Shah) and the latter seeking to sustain its war effort with reliable munition and ammunition supplies. Thus, some type of sale was a matter of time, but will it be a strong enough bridge to weather long term cooperation?

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France Reportedly Planning to Offer Rafale Fighters to Central Asian States

French media reports claim that Dassault Aviation is marketing its Rafale fighter aircraft to several Central Asian states, potentially Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. A sale to either one – especially Kazakhstan, which is traditionally close to Russia – would not only be a significant boon for Dassault, but a breakthrough in the expansion of Western Europe’s security relationships in one of Russia’s key frontiers/border regions.

Uzbekistan has already begun procuring European military equipment, such as four Airbus C-295W light-weight airlifters as well as 11 H125M Fennec and 15 H215M Cougar helicopters. With each of these aircraft types drawing on the French industry, one can see why Paris is interested in expanding its engagement in Central Asia. This is region with vast carbon resources, agricultural output, and industrial competency; so, for Paris, a big-ticket fighter sale could open a significant market with commercial and geo-security gains.

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JF-17 Block-III Reportedly Equipped with Improved Klimov RD-93MA Engine

The Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) newly inducted JF-17 Block-III – or JF-17C – is reportedly powered by Klimov’s RD-93MA, an improved version of the RD-93 turbofan engine already in use with the fighter.[1] According to a news report, the RD-93MA offers 5,000 lb of additional thrust, eliminates black smoke emission, and increases the JF-17’s station time by 30 minutes. Overall, this marks the first direct confirmation of the JF-17 Block-III using a new engine and, specifically, the RD-93MA.

Klimov started testing the RD-93MA in 2020. Klimov’s parent company, United Engine Corporation (UEC), said that the RD-93MA offers several improvements over the RD-93, including greater thrust, an improved fan design, automatic powerplant control system, and emergency engine start mode.

[1] Alan Warnes. “JF-17C Makes Public Debut.” Air Forces Monthly. January 2024

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Bayraktar TB3 Achieves Key Range and Endurance Milestone

Turkish drone maker Baykar announced that its Bayraktar TB3 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) successfully completed a 32-hour sortie, covering a distance of 5,700 km at an average altitude of 20,000 feet.

The latest in the line of Bayraktar drones, Baykar specially developed the TB3 for carrier-borne operations from the Turkish Navy’s Anadolu-class of landing helicopter dock (LHD). It is capable of short take-off and landing, enabling it to operate from the Anadolu LHD’s runway. Its wings can also fold, making it suitable for ferrying/stationing in compact facilities, like that of a carrier.

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