Iranian F-14 and MiG -29 fighters flying with Russian bombers for the first time in Syrian skies, videos put out by the Russian Defence show .
'The Aviationist', an Italian magazine, revealed the videos of the Iranian F-14 Tomcats escorting heavy Russian bombers, including the deadly Tupolev TU-160, "the heaviest, fastest and most destructive bomber ever built". The TU-160 is called the Beliy Lebed or White Swan in Russian but NATO code for the strategic bomber is Blackjack.
According to The Aviationist, the RIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) fighter jets also accompanied Tu-95 Bear bombers that were flying in Iranian airspace during their 9h 30mins missions, from Engels airbase and back, along the Iraq-Iran-Caspian Sea 6,500 km-long corridor, against terrorist targets in Syria.
DEBKAfile in a report on the Russian-Iranian cooperation on Syrian missions noted with concern that these missions were no more than 150 km from Israel's northern border. It claimed that the aging Tomcats, built by Grumman in the 1970s and supplied by the US to the late Shah of Iran, have now been heavily upgraded with state of the art avionics, weapons and surveillance systems too.
These planes are now using their intelligence-collection and tracking systems in Syrian air space near the Israeli border, gathering first hand reports on Israel's air defense systems, DEBKAfile reported. Because these Iranian fighter planes are flying close to Russian bombers, the Israeli Air Force is hamstrung in taking any action against them, DEBKAfile said.
The Aviationist noted that IRIAF is the only operator of the Tomcat, the jets having been kept toned up in spite of the embargo imposed on Iranafter the 1979 Revolution.