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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Iran reveals first domestic fighter jet in show of force

The presentation came amid increasing tensions with Washington

A handout picture shows President Hassan Rouhani in the cockpit of the "Kowsar" fighter jet, believed to be 100 per cent Iranian made, on August 21, 2018. AFP Photo
A handout picture shows President Hassan Rouhani in the cockpit of the "Kowsar" fighter jet, believed to be 100 per cent Iranian made, on August 21, 2018. AFP Photo

Iran revealed what is said was its first-ever domestic fighter jet on Tuesday in a show of force that appeared to be aimed at the US amid increasing tensions over Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was pictured in the cockpit of the new “Kowsar” fourth-generation fighter at the National Defence Industry exhibition in the Iranian capital. The photos and reports of the new fighter jet were widely circulated by Iranian state media and regime-aligned outlets.

State media said the jet has “advanced avionics” and a multi-purpose radar. It claimed it was "100-percent indigenously made" for the first time in Iranian history.

In a televised speech ahead of Wednesday's National Defence Industry Day, he said the new jet signaled a new phase of deterrence against the Islamic Republic’s enemies.

"When I speak of our readiness to defend, it means we seek lasting peace. If we lack readiness, we welcome war," he said.

"If we don't have a deterrent... it gives a green light for others to enter this country."

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Directly addressing the US and its leader Donald Trump, Mr Rouhani said the country that had railed against Iranian ambitions in the Middle East, specifically its funding of proxy groups and its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, would never attack it because of its military might.

"Why does the United States not attack us? Because of our power, because it knows the consequences," Rouhani added.

State television footage did not show the new jet flying, only taxiing along a runway at the defence show.

Iran previously unveiled a stealth fighter, the Qaher F-313, in November 2013, but it was never seen again and is believed to have never actually been flown. It was widely derided as a mockup fighter jet.

Iran unveiled its first domestic fighter jet at a defence show in the capital Tehran today. AFP 
Iran unveiled its first domestic fighter jet at a defence show in the capital Tehran today. AFP 

Analysts were quick to downplay the Iranian announcement, saying that the jet displayed on Tuesday was in fact a variant of a 1970s-era fighter, the Northrop Grumman F5 Tiger II.

“From a military standpoint, the unveiling of the ‘Kowsar-88’ is not significant at all,” said Jordan Steckler, Iran research analyst at the US-based think tank United Against Nuclear Iran.

“Today’s unveiling is best understood as being for domestic propaganda purposes, coming at a time when the regime faces mounting internal pressure due to the re-imposition of US sanctions, as well as escalating protests over its economic and environmental mismanagement and corruption.”

Iran’s adversaries, such as Israel and Gulf nations, have a superior air force than Tehran’s limited fleet of Russian and US strike aircraft that predate the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“The sanctions regime against Iran has effectively limited its ability to maintain its ageing fleet and increased its reliance on China and Russia for parts,” said Mr Steckler.

“The notion that Iran’s air force poses a deterrent to the US, Israel, or America’s Gulf allies is not credible”.

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