The newspaper ABC, a conservative Spanish daily, reports that Iran will use the American-built fighter to calibrate its radar and anti-aircraft units — not as a combat vehicle.
The newspaper attributes the information to “a non-western intelligence agency.”
The news comes as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Venezuela for an official visit on Friday. Ahmadinejad is a close ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Iran reportedly believes that an American or Israeli air attack would come by F-15s and F-16s. However, it is highly unlikely that, in the event of war or a strike against Iran, either aircraft would be used primarily in a ground strike role. Ground strike would probably come from missiles or precision bombs deployed by a stealth B-2 or from missiles fired by B-52 bombers, or from one of any number of ships in the nearby waters. F-22’s would also most likely see air-to-air combat, and the stealthiness of the F-22 makes it unlikely that the F-16 study would give Iran any competitive advantage over the US.
Venezuela purchased 24 F-16s in 1983, before Chavez rose to power. The ABC newspaper reports only 12 of the aircraft remain in service.
In the news story, translated into English, the paper reports that “according to the confidential testimony now offered by a commander of the Venezuelan Air Force, a two-seater F-16 was disassembled in Maracay, about 60 miles west of Caracas, and placed in large wooden containers ‘sealed’, without any external indication of its contents” and flown to Iran via a Boeing 707 outfitted for cargo, with stops in Brazil and Algeria.
The report also suggests that Venezuela, naming a Lieutenant Colonel Karim Lezama, may be seeking or procuring F-14 Tomcat parts for Iran. Iran is the only nation that still operates the F-14, and the US ordered its retired fleet destroyed to deprive Iran of any spare parts.
This weekend, Iran’s deputy chief of staff, General Mostafa Izadi, said any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would lead to “collapse of the Zionish regime.”
“If the Zionists attack us, they will be the ones annihilated in the end,” Izadi said.