If Iran and the U.S. ever come to blows over Tehran’s nuclear program, U.S. warplanes could face an Iranian aerial arsenal that, while old, has been heavily upgraded. China is helping Iran add new sensors and weapons to U.S.-built F-4 Phantoms that are nearly 50 years old.
The upgrades don’t mean the Vietnam War-vintage F-4s are equal to American F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s — to say nothing of the stealthy F-22s. Nor should the U.S. underestimate Iran’s aerial capabilities. Enhancements can significantly boost the combat potential of older planes.