Video footage from recent aerial combat drills by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) shows one of its most advanced fighter jets blasting a target out of the sky just feet above the ground.
On October 2021, the IRIAF held its annual Fada’eeyan-e Harim-e Velayat, or “Defenders of the Velayat Sanctuary” nationwide air drills. The exercises involved live-fire drills and aircraft from five different air bases, which rehearsed a variety of situations.
It’s unclear if the footage that began circulating on social media at roughly the same time comes from last week’s drills or another set of exercises. However, similar drills were undoubtedly being held as the IRIAF practiced fending off attacks such as those recently threatened by Israel, which last week set aside $1.5 billion for preparing for strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
One video circulating shows a stunning low-altitude engagement by two Iranian fighter jets.
In the footage, an IRIAF F-5 Tiger II fighter jet built by the United States and sold to Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution fires off an aerial target. Flying closely off its port wing is a MiG-29 [NATO reporting name “Fulcrum”], a Soviet-built jet rarely seen flying with F-5s except in Iran. The MiG quickly locks onto the target and fires a Vympel R-73 heat-seeking air-to-air missile, which zips ahead to intercept the target just seconds later.
And it all happens just a few thousand feet off the ground.
The US stopped selling Iran weapons after the 1979 revolution, which threw out the Western-backed Shah and ushered in a nationalist Islamic government very sharply critical of the US and Israel and their impact on Middle East affairs.
However, Iran has kept up on its older weapons, updating them with better weapons and avionics to keep them relevant. In the case of the F-5, at least three evolutions of the F-5 have since been manufactured, including the Azarakhsh, Saeqeh, and Kowsar fighters.