Category Archives: Rogue States

F-14s, in-flight emergencies and arrested landings. Top Gun? No, an Iranian TV series

It is very well known that, more or less one year ago China tried to pass off Top Gun as air force footage but did you know there was also a mini-Top Gun made in Iran?

If not, have a look at the following video.

An IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-14, part of a flight of four, suffers a hydraulic failure and is forced to perform a successful emergency landing using the runway arresting system.

Screenplay aside, the video is extremely interesting as it shows the rare Tehran’s Tomcats, one of those can be seen engaging the cable with the tailhook. Noteworthy, some of the radio comms are in English language (with Persian subtitles).

According to the information provided by the user who uploaded it on Youtube, the footage is from the Iranian TV series Shoghe Parvaz.

Thanks to Al Clark for the heads up.

Don't get on a Sukhoi Su-27 without wearing this: Russian (and China's Air Force) long range underwear

Long range flights can be extremely critical for combat pilots.
What makes these missions particularly uncomfortable is not only the complexity of the navigation but the lack of restrooms.

The use of urine collection devices called “piddle packs” in small cockpit compels the pilots to disrobe, adjust the ejection seat and distract them from handling the aircraft. A tricky procedure that can be extremely dangerous if lap belts get stuck on the control stick. As happened at least twice in the past causing the loss of two fighter planes (and the succesful ejection of the respective pilots).

Next generation “piddle packs” pump urine from a pilot’s underwear equipped with an inflatable cup and a hose to a sanitary collection bag so they don’t even have to unstrap when they have to go. A system that is particularly useful when wearing not only a flightsuit but also the anti-exposure suit designed for cold water survival.

A similar underwear system was produced in Russia for the Sukhoi Su-27 pilots and transferred to China along with the planes and a full set of pilot flight gear (including ZSH-7 helmets, helmet targeting device, flight suites etc.) when People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) got the Russian Flankers before China started to manufacture its indigenous version of the plane (the Shenyang J-11A, that entered service in 1998).

The pictures (provided by a source who wishes to remain anonymous), show the Russian underwear delivered to the PLAAF. They should be self-explaining about how it is supposed to work (with the main difference being that the hose is connected to the plane and not to a bag), even if they give no hint of actual comfort…

Anyway, since the Chinese Air Force decided to use cheaper homemade flight gear (and long distance flights were seldom performed) this type of “piddle pack” has disappeared from PLAAF’s warehouse soon becoming a collectors’ item.

Iranian indigenous aircraft and micro-drones: Mach 2.5 stealth plane and scale models (with no military significance)

It is no secret that the sanctions held against Iran are crippling the influx of military equipment forcing Iran to make its own aircraft to replace ageing U.S. types as the F-4 and the F-14 recently seen escorting the Russian Knights display team.

In 2002, the idea of a light weight stealth fighter came to light when a model surfaced during an air industry exhibition. It showed a single seat, single engine fighter with outward canted twin vertical stabilisers. It took Iranian news footage in 2004 for the first full size and seemingly working example to reach the public domain.

Although there are rumours Russian experts from both Sukoi and Mikoyan and possibly Yakolev were also involved in its development, which would explain its striking resemblance to the forward fuselage of the Yak-130, it had been developed by the Students and scientists of the Aviation department of the Malek Ashtar University and reported to have made its maiden flight some time in 2004 using an Iranian version of the Klimov RD-33 engine.

The news footage showed a twin seat example with a semi-matt black fuselage suggesting that it could have been made from Radar Absorbing Materials, and from certain angles, the aircraft looks like a two seat F-35. Even if it has never been ratified, the use of radar absorbing materials are said to significantly reduce the Radar Cross Section.

The light fighter bomber has been named “Shafagh-2” or “Aurora” and is said to have a special twisting ability that gives it better manoeuvrability and roll rate. This may be one of those times where things get lost in translation and the twisting might refer to thrust vectoring (!) rather than roll rate.

The Shafagh is designed as a single seat or twin seat multi role fighter; it has seven hard points, three under each wing and one centreline station and can carry a mixed Air-to-Air load or Air-to-Ground weapons.  The use of pylons under the wings would surely hinder any stealth capability the aircraft has, although the level of stealthiness in comparison to that of the F-22 Raptor or B-2 Spirit should be somewhat less.

The aircraft is certainly real and has flown; it’s unknown in what capacity it has flown but certainly has never entered service. Its last known activity was in 2008 and it should have remained an unfinished project.

Even if some performance data seem to be quite strange or at least hopeful, its reported figures are of a climb rate of 21650 fpm, a service ceiling of 55,000ft and a top speed of Mach 2.5.

Image credit:


Since the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone was captured, Tehran has been using the media to display its capability to reverse engineer or build its own drones.

However, some of them seems to be modified radiocontrolled models rather than real UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems). Anyway, those made by the students at the Nasr Toosi Technical University, are believed to give a hint at where Iranians are in their Micro-UAV development.

For instance, one of the University’s micro-drones is a model helicopter modified to carry a small video camera. As the images show, the tail boom and the landing skids have the word “ALIGN” written on them in English. A quick visit to Google brings up the manufacturer as ALIGN-TREX, a British Radio controlled helicopter specialist with an online shop, while the camera set up suspiciously looks like a ‘SONY’ handycam again commercially available.

The intended use of this device is quite hard to understand. The camera must have an internal memory as the model does not look to have  a transmitter to send the real time images back to a receiver/base station (that would also need a power supply which is not visible). This discounts a urban battlespace ‘eye in the sky’ for a normal drone used to record images to view at a later date.

The second model has a twin tail boom, a size that would suggest a greater payload capacity and perhaps a real time video transmission capability.

The third model (UAV) looks more like a classical drone. Grey in colour, a rounded nose and what looks like a moveable nose area with a small camera able to move up and down in the slot giving a 180 degree field of view, the drone seems to be powered by an electric motor powering a push propeller.

Image credit:

As said, just technology demonstrators that don’t really show anything of military significance.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti.

That's a low level strike: Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom

This series of photos found on the internet, shows what appears to be an ultra low level attack on a unknown location probably dating back to at least 20 years ago.

The silhouette is clearly that of an Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-4 Phantom striking Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). Although some believe that the images were taken from an RF-4, the interesting thing that stands out from these amazing photos is the extreme low level of the attack.

Even though the images were not taken downtown, generally speaking, flying low level was paramount to prevent being detected and hit by the air defenses protecting Baghdad: after the war, Iranian pilots recalled flying as low as 20 meters above the ground level during their strike missions. To such an extent that power cables on the outskirts or Iraq’s capital town became a significant risk for Tehran’s pilots.

Richard Clements for

Image credit: Iranian internet

North Korea developing its own UCAV. Based on U.S. drone.

There are reports coming out of South Korean media that North Korea is developing UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles).

However rather than develop them from scratch they have purchased an unknown number of American made target drones from a middle eastern country thought to be Syria. It is thought that North Korea is going to reverse engineer the drone to produce an armed drone to patrol the disputed border it shares with South Korea and it’s thought it would be used to attack South Korean troops based on Islands in the Yellow Sea during a conflict.

The american drone mentioned us thought to be MQM-107 Streaker. Developed by Raytheon during the early ’70s, the Streaker is a high sub-sonic sub-scale target drone used by both U.S. Army and Air Force for testing guided missiles.

Further details are sparse and even the media source remains unnamed but The Aviationist will monitor and report back when further details emerge.

Richard Clements for

Image: Wikipedia