It is suspected that Iran is keeping and maintaining an aging fleet of aircraft in order to fight Isis and protect itself.
A Vietnam War F-4 Phantom aircraft was spotted flying over Iraq recently, being used in action against Isis fighters. The Pentagon is investigating the sightings.
Iran has been under severe sanctions since its revolution in 1979. It no longer has access to military parts, hardware or technology from overseas. It has therefore become expert at maintaining and equipping its old aircraft to keep them in the skies.
The planes it continues to fly are likely to be American planes it received from the US prior to the revolution. Further it could be using planes flown to Iran during the first Gulf War in the 1990s, The Guardian reports.
To maintain the planes and keep them airborne, Iran smuggles most of its plane parts in using ‘ghost’ companies to act on their behalf, as well as taking parts from commercial aircraft and adjusting them to fit their military fleet. They are also said to be taking parts apart to see how they work and then recreating replicas.
Experts believe the plane spotted over Iraq is something like the Vietnam War-era F-4 Phantom, and are extremely impressed with the fact that the Iranians have been able to keep them flying, citing that Iran is probably the best country at maintaining an aging airforce.
North Korea is another country also known to be salvaging and keeping an aging fleet going back to the Korean War in the 1950s. Experts believe they have MiG-17s from the 1950s and MiG-21s from the 1970s.
The difficulty with keeping a fleet as old as the Iranians or North Koreans is the heightened risk and number of accidents that are more likely to occur. Major crashes have been reported in Iran such as a military aircraft crashing and killing almost 130 people in 2005. Many more crashes are suspected, but have not been reported nor information released by the Iranians.
Pilots also have to deal with ancient equipment and can only fly for a few hours, unlike modern aircraft which is built to fly for longer periods and be more fuel efficient.