TEHRAN, Iran — Iran unveiled on Saturday its newest combat jet, a domestically manufactured fighter-bomber that military officials claim can evade radar.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a ceremony broadcast on state TV that building the Qaher-313, or Dominant-313, shows Iran’s will to “conquer scientific peaks.”
The Qaher is one of several aircraft designs rolled out by the Iranian military since 2007. Tehran has repeatedly claimed to have developed advanced military technologies in recent years but its claims cannot be independently verified because the country does not release technical details of its arsenals.
The Islamic republic launched a self-sufficiency military program in the 1980s to compensate for a Western weapons embargo that banned export of military technology and equipment to Iran. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles, torpedoes, drones and fighter planes.
“Qaher-313 is a fully indigenous aircraft designed and built by our aerospace experts. This is a radar-evading plane that can fly at low altitude, carry weapons, engage enemy aircrafts and land at short airstrips,” Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said.
Some reports however suggest Iran’s program relies on equipment supplied by major international defense contractors — incorporating parts made abroad or reverse-engineered technologies into its domestic designs.
Still photos of the Qaher released by the official IRNA news agency and pictures on state TV show a single-seat jet. They described it as a fighter-bomber that can combat both other aircraft and ground targets.
Iran’s English-language state Press TV said Qaher was similar to the American-made F/A-18, an advanced fighter capable of dogfighting as well as penetrating enemy air defenses to strike ground targets.
Physically, Press TV said, the aircraft resembles the F-5E/F Tiger II, a much older American design that Iran has had in its arsenal since it was supplied to the US-allied regime of the Shah before Iran’s 1979 revolution.
“Development depends on our will. If we don’t have a will, no one can take us there,” Ahmadinejad told the inauguration ceremony in Tehran. “Once we imported cars and assembled them here. Now, we are at a point where we can design, build and get planes in the air.”
Iran unveiled what it said was its first domestically manufactured fighter jet, called Azarakhsh or Lightning, in 2007. In the same year, it claimed that Azarakhsh had reached industrial production stage.
Saeqeh, or Thunder, was a follow-up aircraft derived from Azarakhsh. Iran unveiled its first squadron of Saeqeh fighter bombers in an air show in September 2010.
At an international security conference in Munich on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden said the US is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions — but only if the leadership in Tehran “is serious.”
Washington has indicated in the past that it’s prepared to hold talk directly with Iran, and talks involving all five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have made little headway.
Asked when direct talks might be possible, Biden replied: “when the Iranian leadership, the supreme leader, is serious.”
Biden said the offer stands “but it must be real and tangible and there has to be an agenda that they’re prepared to speak to. We’re not prepared to do it just for the exercise.”