TEHRAN, Iran — Iran unveiled its first domestic fighter jet at a defense show in Tehran on Tuesday, with President Hassan Rouhani saying 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 “Kowsar” plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.
It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”
State TV said the plane had already been through successful testing and showed it waiting on a runway for its first public display flight.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded to the unveiling of the new fighter jet, saying it was a “natural reaction to an economical 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.
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, but has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions in a bid to force its capitulation.
In May, the US announced it was abandoning the 2015 Iran 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.