Core point: Iran’s upgrade is a great rocket for the last war it waged. It is not a good rocket for the next war it could wage.
The Iranian F-14A Tomcats are an anomaly in the region. While most other air forces in the region use multi-purpose or air superiority fighters, the F-14A is a real interceptor with speed, force, and long-range missiles that strike from a distance and then fly away before the enemy has a chance to intervene. Of course, this is made possible by the AIM-54A Phoenix air-to-air long-range missiles she carries. However, the Iranian supply of these missiles is declining rapidly. Air-to-air missiles often have a short shelf life. Missiles that have “expired” cannot guide targets or generate enough thrust to reach them.
Iran has tried various remedies in the past, including attaching missiles to its F-14. But in 2018, they started producing their own version of the Phoenix, the Fakour-90. The missile appears to be practically the same size as the AIM-54, but Iran claims to have an improvement over the original models in several ways.
However, rocket technology has evolved considerably since the Phoenix. While the Phoenix was taken out of service in the 2000s without a real replacement, the AIM-120D AMRAAM, which went into service in the 2010s, achieved almost the same range.
But which rocket would be ahead in a direct confrontation? Do Iranian Upgrades Make the Phoenix Relevant to Modern Air to Air Warfare?
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