Two Su-25 aircraft are parked in Kant, Kyrgyzstan. (VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/ / AFP/Getty Images)
DUBAI — The latest delivery of Russian-made Su-25 Frogfoot aircraft to the Iraqi Air Force originated from Iran, according to a research analyst.
Joseph Dempsey, from the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), provided open-sourced evidence that the close-air support and ground attack aircraft are using the same serial numbers used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which operate the aircraft.
In addition, according to Dempsey, in a video posted by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, the aircraft appeared with wing-mounted fuel tanks; the Russian-supplied aircraft were disassembled and flown into Iraq.
“Following on from an initial delivery of Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft from Russia, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence announced a further delivery had been received on 1 July 2014,” the report, released Wednesday by IISS, said.
“Although the source of this latest delivery of Su-25s has not been officially commented upon, it is the conclusion of IISS analysts that these latest examples originate from neighbouring Iran.”
Dempsey said in the report that Iran has recently pledged military assistance to Iraq to help combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) insurgency.
The extent of this offer and any acceptance by the Iraqi government has not been made public, but delivery of these aircraft may provide the first evidence of direct military aid.
Dempsey said Iranian Su-25s have been assigned a narrow range of six-digit serial numbers, all with the prefix 15-245x, with the last two digits repeated on the aircraft nose. While the full serial numbers are not present, the three individual examples identified on the video each featured two-digit numbers on their nose. Two are coded 51 and 56, while 58 is visible on the sole Su-25UB, correlating with identified Iranian numbering.
He added that the camouflage scheme visible on the three aircraft is also identical to that currently applied to Iranian Su-25s, a scheme not adopted by any other operators.
“Attempts to conceal original operator markings are also apparent, with evidence of key positions being painted over. This includes the location of Iranian roundels on the side of the air intakes along with a large proportion of the tail fin normally occupied by a full serial number, the Iranian flag and the IRGC insignia,” he said in the report.
“It is also noted that these aircraft are externally in much better condition relative to that of the recently delivered Russian Su-25s thought to be drawn from storage.”
Although these aircraft were likely delivered to Iraq by Iranian pilots, it is unclear who will now be responsible for crewing and maintaining them, Dempsey said.
“Given this recent apparent growth in their Su-25 inventory, it seems increasingly unlikely that Iraq retains the capacity to operate this type of aircraft in any significant number without some level of external support.”
Last December, a senior US military official told Defense News that Iran had redeployed a squadron of jet fighters off the strategic disputed island of Abu Musa in the gulf.
The official said that intelligence revealed that 10 Su-25 Frogfoot aircraft were redeployed to the mainland recently.
According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Su-25s present the backbone of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force.