Iran Shows ‘Stealth’ Fighter, Jet Trainer and Missiles

 - April 21, 2017, 10:06 AM

Iran’s supposed stealth fighter was shown in hardware form for the first time in Tehran on April 15. The “F313 Qaher” (Conqueror) formed part of an exhibition organized by the Iranian Ministry of Defence for the local media and state dignitaries, including President Hassan Rouhani and Defense Minister Bg. Gen. Hossein Dehqan. The exhibition also included a new jet trainer named the Kowsar, an armed UAV and two missiles.

The Qaher and the Kowsar are apparently the first results from a long-gestating all-indigenous jet fighter/trainer development effort. The effort has been led by Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) research center. The aircraft proposed in this effort have previously been known as the Shafaq or Borhan, as shown in photos and model form in various configurations at the biennial airshows that take place on Kish Island. Russia’s MiG design bureau is believed to have aided the Shafaq project from 2002 to 2010, but is no longer involved. Iran previously reverse-engineered and modified some of its Northrop F-5 fighters as the Saeqeh.

Separately, the Qaher project was revealed by Iran in February 2013 in a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution. At that time, Western analysts dismissed claims by Iranian officials that the country had already developed a stealth prototype. But it now seems that the aircraft unveiled that day was a subscale mockup, or possibly a radio-controlled model. The configuration of the Qaher as shown at the latest event differs from that shown in 2013.

The Qaher taxied during the exhibition, but is still being prepared for its maiden flight, according to reports from the event by Iranian news agencies. This flight is unlikely to take place from the exhibition venue, which was the Iran Helicopter Support and Renewal Company (IHSRC) facility near Meherabad airbase, and has only a short runway. The black-painted aircraft is small—approximately 45 feet long with a wingspan of about 17 feet, not including the unusually large downturned wingtips. It has canard foreplanes and outward-canted vertical tails, but no movement of the control surfaces was evident during the taxi demonstration. The design has facets and edge alignment—which are stealth features—and is twin-engined. These are probably GE J85 turboshafts taken from Iran’s F-5s, although Dehqan said Iran is preparing to produce its own jet engines. According to the Iranian state news agency IRIB, the Qaher is being designed for multiple missions including close air support, reconnaissance and air patrol. 

While primarily designed as a jet trainer, the Kowsar can also perform in the light attack role. It was shown complete but unpainted, and may also not yet have flown. The tandem-seat, twin-engine design closely resembles the AT-3 jet trainer produced by Taiwan’s Aero Industry Development Center (AIDC) in the 1980s, with design assistance from Northrop.

The UAV is a twin-boom pusher-propeller design named the Majaher (Migrant) 6. It was on display with a reconnaissance sensor ball under the nose. But a video shown at the exhibition showed it armed with an air-to-surface weapon under each wing.  

A radar-guided anti-ship cruise missile on display named the Naseer is actually a Chinese design that originated in the Hongdu Aviation facility. It is one in a series of missiles developed for the AIO by Chinese industry, with the production lines apparently now being set up in Iran with Chinese assistance. A large air-to-air missile on display and named Fakour has been shown previously, and appears to be a reverse-engineered copy of the Hughes AIM-54C Phoenix missile sold to Iran as part of the F-14A Tomcat buy. Both missiles were shown being fired in videos, the former from a ship, the latter from a Tomcat.

During the latest exhibition, various helicopters that have been overhauled or reverse-engineered by the IHSRC were evident, and some flew. They included Bell 204s, 206s and 212s, an AH-1 Cobra, a CH-53 and a Mi-17. 

Additional reporting by Reuben F. Johnson