Iran unveiled what it called its first domestic fighter jet at a defence show in Tehran on Tuesday. The country’s president said it would enhance Tehran’s deterrence capabilities in confronting Washington.
Images on state television showed President Hassan Rowhani sitting in the cockpit of the new plane at the National Defence Industry exhibition in Tehran.
The Tasnim news agency described the jet as a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar, adding that it was “100 per cent indigenously made”.
The aircraft is nicknamed “Kowsar”, which in Islam is a river in paradise and also the title of a chapter in the Koran.
At the ceremony, Rowhani said Iran’s defence programme is aimed at deterrence vis-à-vis the United States.
“The enemy should see how expensive an invasion of Iran would be,” he said. “Why does not the US wage a military attack on us? Because of our power.”
Images released by Tasnim showed a dual-cockpit jet with a single tail fin, resembling the US-made F-5F Tiger. That aircraft, which first flew in 1974, is a variant of the 1950s-era US Northrop F-5 fighter that is a long-time mainstay of the Iranian Air Force.
State television said the Kowsar had already been through successful testing and showed it waiting on a runway for its first public display flight.
The plane was first publicly announced on Saturday by Defence Minister Amir Hatami. He gave few details of the project, focusing instead on Iran’s efforts to upgrade its missile defences.
Hatami said the defence programme was motivated by memories of the missile attacks Iran suffered during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, and by repeated threats from Israel and the US that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the Islamic republic.
“We have learned in the [Iran-Iraq] war that we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Our resources are limited and we are committed to establishing security at a minimum cost,” he said in a televised interview.
The US has sold hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Iran’s regional rivals, but has demanded that Tehran curb its defence programmes, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions in a bid to force it to comply.
US President Donald Trump withdrew the US in May from a 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran’s nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief, saying the deal was deeply flawed.
Iran has dismissed any direct talks with Washington to resolve the issues raised by Trump.
“Our top priority has been development of our missile programme. We are in a good position in this field, but we need to develop it,” Hatami was quoted as saying by Fars news agency on Saturday.
“We will present a plane on National Defence Industry Day, and people will see it fly, and the equipment designed for it,” Hatami added. Iran celebrates National Defence Industry Day on August 22.
In 2013, Iran unveiled what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet, called Qaher 313, but some experts expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft at the time.
Iran’s functional air force has been limited to perhaps as few as a few dozen strike aircraft, either Russian or ageing US models including F-5s that were acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution.
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