A Tale of Two Planes — August 22, 2018
Iran’s semi-official Fars News published a report on Iran’s new “homemade supersonic fighter jet” the Kowsar. However, the jet pictured was neither new nor entirely “homemade”.
It was in fact an Azarakhsh, an upgraded F5 that was first introduced to the Iranian Air Force in 1997. That’s more than twenty years ago. So why the Iranians should release photos of a “new fighter” that is in fact more than twenty years old is anyone’s guess.
It may have been due to sloppiness on the part of the Iranian Air Force’s publicity department but the Western media seized upon it with glee. As the following report reveals, Iran’s announcement of a “new fighter” provoked derision among western observers.
Iran’s ‘New’ Fighter Jet Provokes Derision, As Observers Note Likeness To U.S. Jet From The ’60s
Dominic Dudley — Forbes August 21, 2018
To much local media attention, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) displayed what it claimed was its first domestically-designed and manufactured fighter jet on Tuesday. However, observers have been quick to point out the Kowsar bears a striking resemblance to the F-5 designed by Northrop in the 1950s and used by US forces since the 1960s.
The twin-seater Kowsar was unveiled at a ceremony in Tehran to mark Defense Industry Day. It was attended by President Hassan Rouhani, defense minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami and other officials. Rouhani was pictured in the cockpit of the aircraft at the launch.
Local Iranian news agency reports described the Kowsar as a “fourth-generation” fighter jet with advanced avionics, radar and fire control systems which can be used for short aerial support missions. TV footage showed the plane taxiing along the ground but not taking off or in flight, although news agencies did publish still images of it in the air.
Its close resemblance to the US-made F-5 fighter has raised doubts about how effective it would prove to be in reality, something Iran’s opponents have been quick to seize on.
Ofir Gendelman, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, was among those to note the similarity, saying “I immediately saw that this was a very old US warplane.”
Other analysts also suggested the age of the original aircraft would be a factor. “Yes, it’s a modernised F-5, first designed in the 1950s and in service since the 60s. One can get a lot out of modernising older airframes but this is pushing it,” said Justin Bronk, research fellow for airpower and technology at the Royal United Services Institute.