As a geostrategic region of the world, especially for its oil resources, it is understandable that the countries of the Middle East are equipped with the most modern fighter jets in the world.
Egypt is a country that is regaining its air power after 40 years of neglect, becoming the second foreign customer (after China) of the most modern 4++ generation air superiority fighter, the Su-35. After toppling the pro-Western Muslim government in 2013, the Egyptian leadership purchased MiG-29M medium fighters, S-300V4 air defense systems, and a host of other advanced weapons from Russia and Rafale fighters from France. Su-35 is considered the most modern fighter, not only in the Middle East, but also in Africa.
Su-35 possesses many modern features including low radar cross-section, three-dimensional thrust vectoring engine, very powerful Irbis-E radar and compatibility with R-37M air-to-air missiles, with range up to 400km, and speed of Mach 6. Along with the Su-35 and Rafale, it is likely that Egypt will begin to phase out the old F-16s, bringing the Egyptian Air Force back to its heyday in the 1970s.
In the Middle East, it is impossible not to mention the rich guy Saudi Arabia. The world’s most modern weapons are purchased by Saudi Arabia, such as the F-15SA heavy fighter, a special version from Boeing. The F-15SA is the most advanced variant of the Eagle family, based on advancements on the Korean F-15K and Singaporean F-15SG designs. More than 70 F-15SAs were newly produced, and 70 F-15Ss were upgraded to F-15SA standards, making Saudi Arabia the leading air force in the region.
Without question, the Israeli Air Force is a powerful force, not only in the region but also in the world. The Israeli Air Force is also the first and only country in the Middle East, currently owning the F-35 stealth fighter. The F-35 possesses a series of advanced features, such as stealth, very modern avionics and sensors, and cyber warfare capabilities.
The F-35 is capable of supersonic cruise, as well as being able to make breakthroughs deep into enemy territory, without being detected. The weakness of the F-35 is its weapons bay, which can only carry 4 air-to-air missiles, compared to the 12 missiles of the F-15SA and 14 of the Su-35. Even so, the F-35 still has some serious design flaws, which are not expected to be fixed before 2025.
Once a “big man” in the Middle East and have good relations with the US, Iran has previously purchased F-14 Tomcat fighters from the US. The F-14 used to be the most modern heavy fighter in the Middle East in the 1970s to 1980s. Iran is also the only foreign customer of this fighter.
The F-14 proved to be extremely formidable in combat, having shot down enemy manned aircraft more times than any other fourth-generation fighter. To date, the F-14 has shot down more than 160 Iraqi jets during the Iran-Iraq War, with only three losses. The F-14 in the US was completely destroyed, and Iran no longer had a supply of spare parts and missiles for it. Iran still finds a way to upgrade its F-14s. It is very likely that Russia helped Iran upgrade these F-14s and some other aircraft.
Iran’s F-14s are upgraded with new radars and air-to-air missiles. The Fakour 90 missile on the F-14, copied from the American AIM-54 missile, has very high performance, an estimated range of 300km and a speed of Mach 5. It is one of the most powerful air-to-air missiles in the world, but due to its heavy weight, only F-14s can carry it.