29 July 2009

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, considerable debate developed within the new government on the fate of the 77 Grumman F-14A Tomcats that were acquired under the regime of the Shah of Iran. Throughout the rest of 1979 there were low-intensity negotiations with the United States to buy back to Tomcats for refurbishment to put into service with the US Navy, possibly even the USAF as an interceptor. Discussions even revolved around selling them to a foreign customer.

In February 1979 it was suggested to fly them to Saudia Arabia or Egypt for sale to the Saudis. In the following month the new prime minister Mahdi Bazargan and Ayatollah Khomeni's son-in-law Sadeq Tabatabaie suggested the Tomcats had to be sold as they were to complex to operate by the new Islamic republic. Bazargan wanted them sold back to the USA for a quick sale. The Pentagon welcomed the move as they were looking to possibly sell the F-14s to the United Kingdom. In April the Canadians were rumored to be willing to buy them at 1/3 of their original price.

The defense minister, General Riyahi, and General Bagheri, the head of the IRIAF, wanted to hold on to the Tomcats for the defense of Iran. Official spokesmen for the new government disavowed any intent to sell the Tomcats and by August Ayatollah Beheshti and Ayatollah Khameni (today's supreme leader in Iran) with the support parliament speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani overrode the first president of the Islamic republic, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, and declared that the F-14 fleet was an essential defense asset of Iran.

Source: International Air Power Review, Volume 23. "Air Combat: The Nine Lives of the Cat- Iran's Tomcats at War" by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop, p113.

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