The Iranian air force said on Saturday that a US-built F-14 Tomcat warplane crashed and exploded in Esfahan due to technical fault in the engine but the two pilots survived.
The army’s public relations manager for the central province of Esfahan told Tasnim news agency, affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, that the pilot and co-pilot of the plane landed with parachutes thanks to ejection seats and were taken to hospital for treatment.
According to a survey by Flight Global in 2019, the Iranian air force operates around 24 F-14 Tomcats from a batch of 79 of the Grumman-made, swing-wing fighters that Iran purchased in the mid-1970s before the Islamic revolution. Some of them are still in service in Iran by improvisation in maintenance, since the US sanctions prevent purchase of new equipment and parts while the US Navy retired its last Tomcat in 2006.
This is the second aviation incident in Iran in less than a month. In May, an F-7 fighter jet of the Iranian Air Force crashed near the same city while on a training mission, killing both of the aircraft’s pilots.
Iran’s F-7 fighters are believed to have been modeled after China’s jet Chengdu J-7, whose third-generation export version is called F-7 and is considered a copy of the Soviet-era MiG-21.
Iran’s air force has an assortment of Russian and US-made military aircraft which are not considered to be in optimal condition as decades of Western sanctions have made it hard to maintain the aging fleet.