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

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…

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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’.

  4. Hi
    #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!

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