Iran unveiled on Thursday a new home-grown fighter jet amid growing tensions with the United States, saying the plane could “blind the eyes” of its enemies.
State television showed pictures of two “Saegheh” (Thunder) fighters – said by Iran to be similar to the American F-18 – taking off in tandem and then landing for a ceremony at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport.
“This fighter plane has been researched, designed and built with indigenous means and this new generation of fighter plane is entering industrial production,” Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
“Our forces like a thunderbolt will blind the eyes of the enemies of our land,” he added. “And in the battlefield of defending our land, just like a thunderbolt, they will set ablaze the enemies’ camp.”
The short clips on state television showed the planes painted in blue and yellow and with the double tail-fins characteristic of the F-18. The legend “Air Force” was written in Latin letters in italics on the side.
Najjar said the jets would stage another fly-past on Saturday at the annual military parade in Tehran marking the start of the week commemorating Iran’s 1980-1988 war with Iraq known as the “sacred defence”.
Iran’s showing off of the planes comes a day after a top air force commander said the military has drawn up a plan under which its fighters could bomb Israel if the Jewish state launched an attack on Iran.
The United States and its ally Israel have never ruled out using military strikes to punish Iran for its defiance in the nuclear standoff, and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday that “all options are on the table.”
The Iranian air force has been hit hard by the US trade embargo, which means the country must work intensely to find spare parts to keep its fleet in the air.
Many of Iran’s planes are of American origin and were bought in a massive arms-buying spree by the pro-US shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was ousted by the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Some Western military experts have said the Saegheh is a derivative of the US F-5, a plane whose design dates back to the 1960s and was bought by the shah.
In August, it showed off for the first time another home-built jet, called “Azarakhsh”.