How Did Iran Keep its F-14s Flying Despite U.S. Embargo?

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat was developed for the U.S. Navy as its main fighter-interceptor, introduced into service in 1974. Unlike the F-15 and F-16, which were exported to a number of allied countries, the only foreign operator of the F-14 was Iran, which placed an order in 1974 for 80 planes, 714 Phoenix missiles, and spare parts and engines for ten years. The planes started to be delivered in January 1976, with crews receiving training in the U.S.

After the Islamic revolution in 1979 and subsequent hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Iran which prohibited the provision of any equipment and services to maintain the Iranian F-14s. The F-14, with its two troublesome TF-30 engines, complicated swing-wing system, and complex avionics, has a reputation for being a high-maintenance aircraft, so how did Iran keep its fleet of F-14s flying and manage to rack up a long list of combat victories during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980–1988, and how does the country continue to keep the fleet of 41 F-14s operational a full 17 years after the fighter was retired by the U.S. Navy?

Whenever a country commits acts of lèse-majesté against the self-styled “essential superpower”, the Washington regime usually imposes “sanctions” to “bring them to their knees”. Well, Iran has been subject to sanctions since 1979 with a break between 1981 and 1984, when they were re-imposed including a total ban on sales of weapons, aircraft of all types, and aviation spare parts. The ability of Iran to keep its vintage fighters flying more than four decades later is a testament to the cleverness of smugglers and clandestine arms merchants and the utter incompetence of the U.S. military establishment which sold off surplus F-14 parts indiscriminately without vetting buyers or tracking where they went after the sale.


The F-4 is also intersesting.

The older level of technology and the much larger number of users and much larger number of units, meant much greater supply of spare parts on the international black market.

And Iran is doing updates itself.

One interesting non-update is the lack of trying to shoehorn in a turbofan such as Boeing and IAI wanted to do:

The Russian RD-33 and its Chinese counterpart seem a good fit: