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Some countries are being touched by American or European sanctions. Such sanctions affects the possibility to import spare parts for American-made or European-made aircrafts (e.g. Iranian F14 and Venezuelan F16 or Puma). Yet these countries still have their aircraft flying.

Where do the sanctioned countries find their spare parts? Do they still follow the required MRO process?

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    $\begingroup$ In the case of the Iranian Tomcats, as far as I'm aware the answer is "They get spare parts by cannibalizing their other aircraft." $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Apr 11 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ Are you limiting this to military aircraft, or are civilian planes in scope too? $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Apr 11 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenS I guess commercial planes can have their maintenance in an airport outside the country. However military planes usually can't (expect during operations). $\endgroup$
    – AlixL
    Apr 11 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ I think people make too much drama out of the F-14 parts embargo. These are aircraft the US themselves have retired because of fatigue and cost of maintenance issues. Iran really only flies them if they want to publicly thumb their noses at the US. The country is quite capable of sourcing much more advanced aircraft from other countries who could care less what the US government thinks about that. They also modify older airframes to produce their own versions of aircraft. Iranian engineers are quite capable of this. The ones living in the US have proven that beyond any doubt. $\endgroup$ Apr 11 at 17:11
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In the case of military planes, they could try convincing someone with parts to secretly violate the UN sanctions, which may not be difficult if they have something the other really wants, like cheap oil.

If nobody has parts or those who do can’t be bribed, such as the case of Iran’s F14s, then you cannibalize planes until you run out of critical parts, and then the entire fleet is grounded. That is, after all, the goal of the sanctions.

However, for civilian planes, like North Korea’s state-owned airline, there is a humanitarian exception to the sanctions to keep their planes airworthy—mostly so they don’t crash and kill innocent people on the ground in other countries.

Keep in mind that sanctions apply to anyone doing business with that country, even outside of its borders. They can’t just fly their planes somewhere else for maintenance to get around the sanctions.

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The consequence of sanctions on Arpartheid South Africa was a thriving military equipment sector with some remarkable products, including nuclear weapons. Simply put, other people are clever enough to find equivalent solutions to US engineered parts and only when a super expensive fab costing billions is needed will they need to downgrade their specs. But don't think that sanctions will in the long term keep other countries from owning fancy equipment: They will learn to build it themselves.

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