The Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqhan is currently on an official visit to Moscow to discuss the purchase of up to $8 billion in Russian military hardware. Iran‘s priority is the upgrading of its aging Air Force, which currently consists of decades-old U.S. and Soviet aircraft. To this end, Iran is expected to sign a co-production agreement for an undisclosed number of Su-30SMs or the more basic Su-30M2 variant. The Iranian military originally expressed interest in purchasing these aircraft in August 2015. This deal will make Iran only the second country, after India, to produce a local Su-30 variant. The Su-30 aircraft will give Iran a significant increase in capability and greatly reduce the technological advantage held by the U.S. and the Gulf States.
Russia‘s delivery of its S‑300 anti-aircraft system will also be a point of discussion as Iran looks to modernize its air defenses. Russia is in a position to provide Iran with key assistance in the construction of a modern air defense network. Moreover, Iran is wary of military purchases from the West as there is an increased risk that contracts could be suspended, based on the history of Western-backed sanctions on Iran.
Iran‘s potential purchase of Su-30 aircraft will require a notification and verification process through the UN Security Council, as is required under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in July 2015. The current UN arms embargo is to be lifted in 2021, five years from when Iran officially came into compliance with the JCPOA. The S‑300, however, is not subject to such delivery delays, as the contract was originally signed before the nuclear sanctions were imposed on Iran.