Iran’s mysterious military plane crashes that amount to “mass purges”

On Jan. 5, 1995 the entire senior commanders of the regular Iranian Air Force (HQ’s general staff) were killed in a suspicious plane crash near the city of Isfahan. Among the dead were several generals including the Iranian Air Force’s commander Gen. Mansour Sattari, the air force’s deputy commanders Gen. Yassini, Gen. Ardestani and a few other high ranking officers.

The cause of the crash is still unknown.

The IRIAF’s board of inquiry never released its findings, if they found any. Some attributed the cause of crash to be ‘pilot error’ as some recalled the pilot being a ‘flight training school reject’ who was about to be dismissed. But why give the control of a VIP aircraft with a dozen VIP passengers to a ‘flight school reject’ then?

Gen Sattari 1

The Iranian regime is known to be hostile to the regular Iranian armed forces (Air Force, Army and Navy).

The first round of mass purges came right after the Ayatollahs’ seizure of power in February 1979. At the time, they mercilessly executed almost all the Shah’s armed forces generals and those who were deemed anti-revolutionary. It is believed that upwards of 9,000 military service-members were executed between February 1979 and October 1980, while hundreds were let go under bogus circumstances. Among those who were killed, there were dozens of highly trained fighter pilots, technicians and war planners whose absence left Iran almost defense-less against the Iraqi onslaught during the coming 8 year long war.

The second round of mass executions came in 1983-84 when several senior naval and ground forces officers were charged with ‘membership in Tudeh (communist party of Iran) party’ and summarily executed. Many claim that these men’s main crime was protesting the regime’s plans to expand the war and seize Iraqi territory. These senior officers believed the war objective of ejecting Iraq from Iran’s territory had been achieved and it was time to settle for peace.

But these mass executions and death squads are the official purges we know about. And the Iranian regime is actually proud of its work in ‘cleansing the earth from corrupt individuals’. The notion of ‘eradicating the corrupt from the face of the earth is very common in Iran.

Being ‘corrupt’ or ‘Mofsed’ is also a charge that the regime lays on any one who might be deemed counter-revolutionary or un-islamic.

And then there are purges we do not know about or haven’t heard much about.

The first of these came in September of 1981. The then commander of the Iranian AF Javad Fakouri along with the Chief of Staff of Iran’s armed forces General Fallahi, Defense Minister Namjou (all western oriented senior officers) died in a mysterious crash aboard a C-130 Hercules transport plane, while returning from an inspection tour of the Iranian military gains in the war against Saddam’s army.

Again, no official cause of the crash was ever released. Through these violent mass executions and lay offs, the new Islamic regime solidified its control over what was dubbed the Shah’s “Taghuti” Armed Forces.

As mentioned earlier, the entire command and general staff of the regular Iranian Air Force (IRIAF) was decimated in a mysterious ‘Lockheed JetStarII’ plane crash.

Gen. Sattari (a ground radar control officer by training) had become commander of the Iranian AF in 1986 at a time when the air force was under enormous pressure, and lacked any serious capability during the last phase of the war with Iraq. He’d become famous for introducing I-HAWK air defense missile batteries as battlefield mobile air defense systems. Through personal innovation and initiative, he single handedly was responsible for downing dozens of Iraqi aircraft. His connections with the current president of Iran who was chief of civil and military defense at the time paid off in 1986, and he was appointed the commander of the air force.

Gen Sattari

Though not known for being pro-Shah or remotely western, he had an independent streak that led him to be distrusted by the regime. He had grand plans to modernize the battered air force and pushed to purchase new aircraft (MiG-29s, Sukhoi-24, F-7 Chengdu… etc) and wished to strengthen the weakened air arm under his command. He retained many of the US trained pilots and technicians. He fought tooth and nail to have many of the western trained personnel be returned to active duty since their expertise were needed to maintain the western aircraft.

Those plans were not favored by a regime that regards the regular army as ‘Taghuti’ and relies on the ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’ to protect the Islamic revolution. Not to mention using the IRGC as a check against the regular military. (IRGC has seized or established grounds/bases near every major regular military base in Iran).

Once those senior commanders (read obstacles) were killed, the regime went into one of its mass purges again. Dismissal rates increased, dissident personnel were thrown in jail, any one who voiced his concern against rampant corruption was jailed, cronyism grew larger as the new commander of the IRIAF Gen. Baghae’e (known as ‘Choopan’ or herder, for his love of goats, cows and sheep) turned the air force bases around the country into herding grounds, and started using the air force’s conscript soldiers as slave laborers in the regime’s oil and gas projects through out the country. He basically did what he was told to do: keep an important branch of the regular military weak and incompetent.

At the time of the ‘JetStarII crash’ in Isfahan in January of 1995, many within the air force community believed the cause of the incident was ‘a package’ given to a crew member as a gift. Did the ‘gift’ explode mid-air causing the loss of cabin pressure and subsequent loss of life and aircraft in the process? No one knows.

But the history of military purges in Iran tells me that the regime did not want General Sattari and co to run the regular air force.

What better way to dismiss these men in a mysterious mid-air crash than to risk upsetting 1/3rd of Iran’s mostly pro-western US trained regular military?

Winston Smith for

Image credit: The Spirit of Man, Wiki


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  1. There is so much propaganda and agenda-driven speculations (without any reference to credible sources) it’s hardly readable. Ironically it’s something Iran regime is regularly accused of.

  2. those planes you mentioned contained both IRGC and Army commanders, deputy chief commander of IRGC, chief commander of IRGC in khorramshar, representative of supreme leader in supreme defense council were among the
    dead people in C-130, if their crash has been intentional, then it has been done by western agents in Iran’s army. those commanders were war heros and most loyal people to Islamic Republic and they were on a trip to meet the supreme leader.

    after revolution only those royal commanders which ordered the massacre of protestors were executed. just in one of these massacres known as 17 shahrivar which occured in jaleh square hundreds of protestors were killed and thousands injured.

    also that 1/3 pro-western army was a big joke, I should remind you Iran’s air force army which were considered most pro-western people in army, voluntary joined the revolution even before the success of revolution:

    • The MAJORITY OF THE AIRFORCE EITHER STAYED LOYAL TO THE SHAH OR STAYED NUTERAL. That picture dosent prove anything. Why do you think there was more fighters then fighter pilots and technitions on bases?. Most of the pilots were purged, executed or had left the country.Few lower rank officers defected like Babbaei,(butcher)attaei and co, but most of the airforce never joined the revolution. The homafars were the exception as was havanirooz which willingly joined khomenie.
      Stop making things up

      • Air force was the first military service to join the revolution, the Imperial guards storming of IIAF HQ in farah street caused people to join AF personnel and storm weapons factory in farah st, Farah street which is now known as Piroozi(victory) street was where Iran’s revolution succeeded and it is the neighborhood which i mostly grow up and i am posting this reply from there.

        • Havanirooz and homafars were not the airforce as a whole. For chris sakes learn the difference. Havanirooz was the army branch aviation. Airforce is diference.
          The tactical branch of the airforce is a completely different branch of body all together.The airforce or it’s body as a whole stayed out of it.

          • who talked about havanirooz(army aviation)?! i am talking about IIAF(Imperial Iranian Air Force), Havanirooz didn’t joined the revolution but it was the Air force, and homafars were part of the AIR FORCE.

            HQ of IIAF(now know as IRIAF) is at piroozi street(doshan tapeh).

            please don’t talk about internal structure of the armed force to me, me who have lived most of my life in khune sazmani and have served in the armed force.

            • Havanirooz was joining khomenies revolution well before the homafars did. BTW, homafars were the only part of the airforce that joined the now failed revolution. The airforce was destroyed and most of the pilots, nd the high ranking officers were purged for a reason.,Some lower ranked ndnot fully trained religiouse cadre joined khomeni. THE MAJORITY OF THE BODY STAYED OUT OF ITBECAUSE SHAH HIMSELF DIRECTLY ORDERD THE ARMED FORCES TO STAY OUT OF POLITICS.
              Think to yourself if the armed forces were as loyal as you say there were, why were there mass purges regulary and many officers replaced with less trained religiouse loonies on tactical fighter bases or army garrisons?.I can tell stories about the brutality displayed by babbaei and the rest of his gang who served in the air in the 8 year war and after the lunatics death.
              That ill complety change you’re view about this disscusting regime.

  3. First off, I don’t really engage pro-Iranian regime commenters since they are just a waste of time. Arguing with them won’t work. But let’s see: 1- So @mohsen claims that the new Islamic regime killed only those who’d ordered the “massacre” of people during the revolution. So will he be able to tell us why Lt. General Jahanabani (head of air force training school) was shot? What’d he done? What about the air force commander General Rabi’ee? what was his crime? And the list goes on and on and on. Yes, a few dozen air force and navy personnel switched sides but then between 1979-1981 almost all of them were purged either through lay-offs or executions. The regime trolls’ comments don’t withstand the light of the day in a court room. Unfortunately, the Iranian regime is a monster that has no qualms killing its own citizens or purge a few military officers here and there. Moreover, as a person who grew up in a military family and as someone who actually did his ‘sarbazi’ as an officer in Iran, I know more than you ever do or wish to know. SO please keep your mouths shut and listen for a change. You may learn something. Thnx

    • Your point of view is completely clear from your blog profile and don’t think that you are the only one around here who did his ‘sarbazi’ or you are the only one with a military family, unlike many of Iranian expats who fled Iran during the war my father(an officer in Artesh) and many of my uncles didn’t fled Iran and fought in the Kurdistan and Imposed war, and i am sure that you do not know more than i wish to know about inner workings of Iran’s military since you have been out of Iran for quiet some time but we have been in Iran and I have family member in both Artesh and Sepah and I have personally served in Iran’s armed forces(as a volunteer, because of my father status as a Janbaz(veteran) i am exempt from conscription)

      Some high ranking officers were purged in the early stage of the revolution by overzealous revolutionaries but even after the Nojeh coup attempt the Army was not disbanded like the other revolutions in tsarist Russia or Cuba, no massive execution also happened(although in 1980s IRIN commander and several other were executed because of connections to Tudeh party) .

      This officers that you claimed that so called Mullah regime killed were all handpicked by supreme leader and were approved by hefazat etelaat (in the case of Ardestani his family is a family friend to us and so I personally know some of his close family members).

      You have no proof of their killings what so ever and this article is based on pure speculations.

      • The army was disbanded uptill mid 1980.However when the war started the purged officers and technition returned to serve their country and not khomenie..
        In Isfahan tactical fighter base where two of our closest friends served, some of the returning officers if not most were coming off bogus purges and some had impending execution warrants but in intervention by bani sadr saved their lives including iran’s greatest fighter ace.

        Sometime I wonder how badly some people here are uninformed.Our F-4 base in Hamedan had more phantoms ten pilots or tenchnitions and our dezful airbase was almost non-existent let alone combat ready before the war.

        • The army was disbanded uptill mid 1980?!

          My father and uncle both were in the Army at the time and no
          it was not disbanded, there were chaos and many had lefted the service but it was not disbanded.

    • General Jahanabani (head of air force training school)? one of the closest and most loyal people to Iran’s dictator. why you don’t mention his real post, deputy chief commander of Iran’s Air force. I should remind you after air force crew (homafaran) joined the revolution, there was an order to suppress them but cause the main body of army was part of revolution, commanders forced to use the royal guard and that’s when protestors who heard the shooting sound from the base rushed in to help the homafaran. apparently for you the life of those homafaran which were killed by their commanders has no value. the same thing applies to those commander’s lives for us(Iranian).
      the crime which this man was executed for was (جنایتکار مفسد فی الارض) which means corrupt murder.

      • these mollah lovers have no shame. none whatsoever. General Jahnbani was no friend of the shah. Why do you think he never became the airforce commander despite being the mot accomplished fighter pilot in iran at the time.
        Why do you think Rabbi was named the AFC instead of him?. Rabbi was very loyal to the shah.

  4. Sounds like Saddam’s govt. people that were regularly dying in helicopter “accidents”.

  5. In the September 1981 not only Army commanders died the dead included the deputy commander of IRGC Yousef Kolahduz, commander of IRGC forces in khouzestan Mohammad Jahan ara.

    Mansour sattari and other Artesh commander’s mentioned in the article were chosen by the supreme leader himself and were considered loyal to him if he wanted to get rid of them, he can simply sack them also only IRIAF personnel had access to these aircraft.

    Crashing of VIP planes not only happened to Artesh personnel, in 2006 Ahmad Kazemi commander of IRGC ground force and some other IRGC generals died in a crash

      • Nonesense … most of those names you cited in your article and also in the comments like Sattari, Jahan ara, etc. are the most respectful heroes for the poeple of Iran and also for the Iranians hoe defected to other countries because they saved Iran’s soil from Saddam Hussein’s aggression.

        I don’t know why you see the facts upside down, maybe you have to rethink your beliefs, or simply visit your mother country and the main battlegrounds they fought for like Khorram Shahr, etc.

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