Iranian fighter jet seemingly flying over Homs: is Tehran actively taking part to the air war in Syria?

Sep 26 2012 - 18 Comments

Although the majority of footage, photo appearing on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and so on, some of the images coming from Syria proved to be fake, as those allegedly showing a Syrian Arab Air Force plane hit by surface to air missiles or the L-39 crashing into the ground after being hit by Free Syrian Army’s anti-aircraft fire.

That said, take the following with grain of salt.

Brought to my attention by Bjørn Holst Jespersen the following image was uploaded on the Syrian Revolution Memory Project Flickr photostream. The photograph, whose EXIF can be found here, is the last of a set reportedly describing a day spent by Abu Jafaar “the citizen journalist” with the Al-Farouk Brigade of the FSA.

It was taken on Aug. 31 (at least, according to the EXIF), even if the caption says it was shot on Aug. 6 (noteworthy, all pictures in the set have the same caption: “Homs, Syria August 6, 2012”).

Anyway, the photograph clearly shows an F-5 Tiger fighter jet. Among the various operators of this kind of aircraft, Iran and Turkey are the closer ones.

Provided that the image was really taken in Syria, over Homs or elsewhere in the country, and considered that Tehran has recently admitted it is helping Assad against the rebels (recent imagery even disclosed the presence of Iran Air and Mahan Air planes at Damascus airport) there are some chances that the plane depicted in the photograph is really an Iranian F-5.

Maybe it’s a bit far fetched but this photo could prove Iran is a bit more actively than thought taking part to the air war over Syria. Even if it could be risky and surely destined to be unveiled quite soon by drones and intelligence gathering platforms spying on Assadists movements.

Less likely, the image could have been taken near the border with Turkey, thus showing a TuAF NF-5…

  • So the aircraft depicted shows clearly wing tip fuel tanks, it is not an F-5 Tiger. Maybe it is an T-38 or a NF-5.

    • Michael Neumann

      No expert, to say the least, but couldn’t those be rockets, in which case it *could* be an F-5?

    • Mark

      T-38s don’t have tip tanks or missile rails. On the other hand F-5As and Bs do have the tip tanks,the rest have rails

    • Praetorian
      • interesting, I thought those twin tail planes were modified F-5s. But whether a knock of or not, testing them in combat is one thinkable reason to deploy those.
        And lack of loyal pilots in the Syrian gov airforce would be a thinkable reason for Iran to involve their airforce. But with the photo still unverified these speculations remain unfounded.

  • attique

    i read some where that turkey sent their fighter jets to the Syrian border coz some of the Syrian helicopters violated the borders
    so this might be one of those fighters

    • dude

      did you forget the syrian air defence hunted down a turkish rf-4e over the sea? do you seriously think a mediocre trainer like f-5 can survive to reach homs? probably an asset from iran, operated by syrian pilots.

  • Mr B.

    To reach Syria it would have had to violate either iraqui or turkish airspace, so how did it do it?

    • Michael Neumann

      Iraq might well turn a blind eye.

    • NHale

      From David Cameron’s address to the UN today,

      “The most worrying factor is the inevitable spillover to Iraq. There, the Shiite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has moved closer to the Shiite fundamentalist regime in Iran since the withdrawal of the US military at the end of 2011. Al-Maliki fears that Sunni fundamentalists in Syria might replace the Assad regime and then support Sunni insurgent elements in Iraq. Flights from Iran now freely cross Iraqi air space, ferrying weapons and troops to support the Syrian dictatorship.”

  • Mo

    and here is a fine question:
    Why F-5? IRICGAF has a hand full of Su-25Ks, why using F-5 belonging to IRIAF instead of using frogfots?

    • dude

      syrian government never gonna risk such “valuable assets” for random close air support missions. possibility of military intervention is a good reason to secure “them” on fortified hangars for now.

  • Mr B.

    Mo has a point and also it would be unlikely that an old F5 could have a big impact on operations. And the risk for iran, in case it was shot down, would be too great because the world would have evidence of its involvment. Not something iran would like to happen.

    • Michael Neumann

      Maybe, but Iran has been pretty open about its involvement, and on this seems to have the backing of Russia and China.

  • Ken Macaulay

    Here’s another photo of a “shotdown” plane, giving another good reason to be wary of any claims of these ‘citizen journalists’..

    PS. Syria still has plenty of airpower, most of which has yet to be brought into play. May not be the most modern stuff in the world, but it will still do the job against insurgents/rebels. Very unlikely they’d welcome Iranian jets, even if they were offered. The SU-25’s might be handy due to their survivability against heavy fire, but they’ve plenty of SU-22’s (between 50 & 90 according to different sources) & 20 SU-24’s, among numerous other aircraft which could be used for ground-attack.

  • K S

    Note that Turkey does not fly the F-5 as a front line fighter anymore: the very few remaining F-5A/Bs in the Turkish Air Force are all lead-in fighter trainers at the Konya air base, far from where this is all taking place. There is absolutely no way a Turkish Air Force trainer aircraft will be flying anywhere near the Syrian border at this time.

  • Tom Cooper

    The plane on that photo is almost certainly F-5A/B or RF-5A, as can be seen by wing-tip-mounted tanks (no such tanks can be used on F-5E/Fs).

    Now, if there is ‘no way’ the Turkish Air Force (‘THK’) is flying F-5A/Bs – or RF-5As over Syria (especially the latter variant would be much more useful for the purpose of monitoring the situation there), ‘because’ these are now used only as lead-in trainers, it’s even less likely that Iranians would do so – for exactly the same reason: since nearly all of its F-5A/Bs and RF-5As have been rebuilt into T-38-like Simourq two-seat lead-in trainers, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force is left with only a few ex-Ethiopian and ex-Vietnamese F-5As in service. These are also used as lead-in trainers (for details and photos of these, please see ). Given the IRIAF is suffering a latent lack of all sorts of training aircraft, their deployment anywhere outside Iran is simply out of question.

    The use of B747-transports or deployments of Iranian Su-24s in Syria from back in 2001 by side (this did happen in the course of a joint exercise)…but geographically: Turkey has a direct (and lenghty) border to Syria, while Iran is much further away.

    Combined, this all makes the possibility of this being one of IRIAF’s F-5A/RF-5As next to ‘non existent’.

  • Iriaf pilot

    #1.Hey guys dont forget that iran air force does not have any nf-5s we have just t-38a named simorq.
    #2.Iran have reached the syrian boarder many years ago when general fakouri planned attacking H-3 (al-valid), so if we have reached those lands in war and in attack range of strong iraqi air defence, so we can reach it in peace easier!
    #3.each person who is reading this comment, loves planes and knows about fighter jets so my question is this how a f-5 (f-5e or f-5f makes no difrrents) have reached homs is syria full armed whitout any out carrying fuel tanks?
    #4.there was no air attaking danger when this picture is photographed and as you know f-5 can carry sidewinder or sparrow missles by wing ralis so what will sidewinder or sparrow do to the rebels?
    These are my reasons for dont believing this photograph!
    Here is my e-mail, anser my questions and send them!