A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mocked Iran’s revelation Tuesday of its “indigenous” new fighter jet.
Iran unveiled the fighter jet at a defense show in Tehran on Tuesday, calling the Kowsar a “fourth-generation” fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar, the Iranian news agency Tasnim said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”
But analysts quickly noted similarities between the plane and the F-5 fighter jet, made by Northrop-Grumman in the 1950s.
“The Iranian regime unveils the Kowsar plane and claims that it is ‘the first 100% locally-manufactured Iranian fighter jet,'” Ofir Gendelman, Netanyahu’s Arabic language spokesman, wrote on Twitter. “It boasts about its offensive capabilities. But I immediately noticed that this is a very old American war plane (it was manufactured in the ‘50s). It is from the F-5 class of jets which has not been in use for decades.”
النظام الإيراني يكشف النقاب عن طائرة #كوثر ويدعي أنها "أول مقاتلة إيرانية محلية الصنع %100" ويتفاخر بقدراتها الهجومية النوعية ولكنني رأيت على الفور أن هذه هي طائرة حربية أمريكية قديمة جدا (صنعت في أواخر الخمسينات) من طراز F-5 خرجت منذ عقود من الخدمة… الكذب حبله قصير… pic.twitter.com/Mb8plEjlxr
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) August 21, 2018
The F-5 was sold to Iran in the 1960s and first entered operation in the Iranian Imperial Air Force in 1965. In the West the F-5 line of jets is largely used for training purposes.
Iran has already used the F-5 platform — and, some observers suggest, actual parts from its aging fleet of non-flying F-5s — to develop its newer jets.
The Saeqeh, first flown in 2004, was one such plane.
The suspicions follow the much-derided unveiling in 2013 of an apparently fake previous “first” domestic fighter jet, the Qaher F-313, which was determined by numerous Western experts to have been a plastic model of a plane too small to fly.
State TV said the Kowsar had already been through successful testing and showed it waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, though live footage of the flight stopped before the plane took off.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman took the unveiling of the new fighter jet more seriously, saying it was a “natural reaction to an economic crisis.”
“The Iranians are feeling very pressured by the continued US sanctions and in reaction they are coming out with these things, but we also shouldn’t dismiss it,” Liberman told reporters.
At the Kowsar’s unveiling Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic must prepare to battle its enemies.
“We should make ourselves ready to fight against the military powers who want to take over our territory and our resources,” the president said in a televised address at the event, Reuters reported.
Images on state television showed Rouhani sitting in the cockpit of the new plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) August 21, 2018
The plane was publicly announced on Saturday by Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who had said it would be unveiled on Wednesday.
He gave few details of the project, focusing instead on Iran’s efforts to upgrade its missile defenses.
Hatami said the defense program was motivated by memories of the missile attacks Iran suffered during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, and by repeated threats from Israel and the United States that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and ballistic missile projects and its threats to destroy Israel.
“We have learned in the [Iran-Iraq] war that we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Our resources are limited and we are committed to establishing security at a minimum cost,” he said in a televised interview.
The US has sold hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Iran’s regional rivals, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions in a bid to force Iran to end its military deployments and support for allied militias in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the region.
In May, the US announced it was abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposing nuclear-related sanctions, threatening global companies with heavy penalties if they continue to operate in Iran.
In a bid to salvage the accord, the EU and European parties to the deal — Britain, France, and Germany — presented a series of economic “guarantees” to Iran last month, but they were deemed “insufficient” by Tehran.
The sanctions that went into effect earlier in August target US dollar financial transactions, Iran’s automotive sector, and the purchase of commercial planes and metals, including gold. Even stronger sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and central bank are to be re-imposed in early November.
US President Donald Trump has offered talks on a “more comprehensive deal” but Iran has balked at negotiating under the pressure of sanctions and has instead leaned on its increasingly close ties with fellow US sanctions targets Turkey and Russia.